Houston man pleads guilty in scheme to sell US$317 mln bogus masks to Australian state


Arael Doolittle entered his plea to a wire fraud conspiracy charge on Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes in Houston.(File pic shows masks manufacturing in Taiwan. - Reuters)

HOUSTON: A Texas man has pleaded guilty to involvement in a scheme to fraudulently sell 50 million N95 respirator masks he did not have for $317.6 million to the government of New South Wales in Australia, U.S. prosecutors said.

Arael Doolittle entered his plea to a wire fraud conspiracy charge on Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes in Houston.

Prosecutors said Doolittle and co-defendant Paschal Eleanya tried to sell 3M-branded masks at five times the list price, hoping to collect up $275 million with the rest going to their "broker" and to representatives of New South Wales' government.

The U.S. Secret Service broke up the transaction before it was completed, an indictment last November said.

Doolittle, of Houston, faces up to five years in prison at his scheduled Oct. 25 sentencing, and will remain in custody until then.

Kevin Cobb, a federal public defender representing Doolittle, declined to comment on Wednesday.

Charges remain pending against Eleanya. In an email, his lawyer Ali Fazel called Eleanya a "middleman" who tried to ensure the parties got what they were negotiating for.

"We are working hard to demonstrate his conduct was above board and hope the government will dismiss his charges," Fazel said.

Doolittle separately pleaded guilty in June to wire fraud in connection with an alleged scheme to defraud investors in oil and gas transactions.

Prosecutors in that case agreed to recommend he spend four years in prison in addition to his sentence in the mask case.

3M Co, the world's largest maker of N95 masks, has tried since the COVID-19 pandemic began to stop price-gouging and other improper sales for its masks, including by filing 36 lawsuits and seizing more than 41 million counterfeit masks.

In a statement, the St. Paul, Minnesota-based company said it was pleased with the guilty plea, and appreciated U.S. Department of Justice efforts to stop people from illegally exploiting demand for its masks.- Reuters

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 46
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
Join our Telegram channel to get our Evening Alerts and breaking news highlights

Masks , Texan , Australia , sell , bogus ,

   

Next In Business News

CPO futures expected to trend lower on profit-taking next week
Britain looking at temporary measures to alleviate trucker shortage
'Loss and pain': Families testify at Dutch MH17 trial
Oil hits highest in almost 3 years as supply tightens
GLOBAL MARKETS-S&P 500 edges up, European shares slump amid Evergrande fears, US yields rise
Banking on wealth management
Short Position - Opcom, La Nina, Taxing
Going for growth
Sapura Energy in race against time
Ge-Shen hopeful of growth amid challenges

Stories You'll Enjoy


Vouchers