Houston men charged with trying to sell 50 million N95 masks they didn't have to foreign government

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Houston men charged with trying to fradulently sell 50M N95 masks
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A nearly $300 million scheme could land two Houston men in prison for a long time. Here's what a Secret Service investigation revealed.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Two Houston men have been charged in a scheme to attempt to sell 50 million non-existent N95 face masks to a foreign government in exchange for upwards of $275 million, the Department of Justice said Tuesday.

Following the investigation conducted by the Secret Service, a federal jury returned a three count indictment for conspiracy and wire fraud on Nov. 19 for Paschal Ngozi Eleanya, 46, and Arael Doolittle, 55.

The indictment alleges Eleanya and Doolittle tried to sell 50 million 3M model 1860 N95 respirator masks they did not actually possess to a foreign government.

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The men are also accused of defrauding a foreign government out of more than $317 million, the total purchase price of the masks.

According to the indictment, Eleanya, Doolittle and their brokers negotiated a sales price for the masks that was five times the public list price that 3M had set.

The men expected to receive up to $275 million as a result of the scheme, authorities say.

SEE ALSO: Man accused of stealing $1.6 million in CARES Act money to buy cars and take trips

The foreign government wired the money to complete the purchase, but authorities disrupted the transaction before it was completed.

Eleanya turned himself in to officials Tuesday. Doolittle was taken into custody Nov. 20.

If convicted, Eleanya and Doolittle face up to five years in prison for conspiracy and up to 20 years in prison for each of the two counts of wire fraud.

Each charge carries a possible $250,000 maximum fine.

You can report COVID-19 fraud, hoarding or price gouging to the National Center for Disaster Fraud's (NCDF) National Hotline at 866-720-5721 or visit the Department of Justice's NCDF website.