WASHINGTON - The coronavirus threat has inspired predatory price gougers to hoard much-needed sanitary products, and then turn around and sell them at a sky-high rate, but prosecutors at the state and federal levels are sending a message that such practices won’t be tolerated.
President Donald Trump has signed an executive order making it a crime to excessively stockpile personal protective equipment that is needed by medical personnel fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
Attorney General William Barr says the Justice Department has already launched investigations into people who are hoarding supplies and price gouging.
He says investigators will go after people who are “hoarding these goods on an industrial scale for the purpose of manipulating the market.”
The executive order allows the president to designate some items as “scarce.”
Barr says, "If you are sitting on a warehouse with surgical masks, you will be hearing a knock on your door.”
No specific items have been identified yet and the Justice Department will work with Health and Human Services to enforce the president’s order.
At the state level, in Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has joined 31 prosecutors across the country urging online platforms including Amazon, Facebook, Craigslist, eBay, and Walmart to “rigorously monitor” online price gouging.
Meanwhile, in Virginia, Commonwealth Attorney Mark Herring is delivering a warning to would-be price gougers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report