AG Fitch recovers nearly 500,000 PPE items from price gouger
Attorney General Lynn Fitch and her team began the process of distributing hundreds of thousands of FDA-approved Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including N-95 respirators, surgical masks, and disposable gloves statewide. The Attorney General’s Office came into possession of these items as a result of a plea agreement in a price gouging case on the Coast.
“Taking advantage of our neighbors in need during a crisis to turn an extra profit is wrong,” said Attorney General Lynn Fitch. “We are turning this PPE back to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for us during this pandemic – health centers, law enforcement, and fire departments.”
In March 2020, following multiple complaints of price gouging, the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office began an investigation into Gulf Coast Pharmaceuticals Plus, LLC.
United States Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi, Robert Walker, signed a search and seizure warrant for the GCPP premises, and the following items were inventoried and seized:
· 6,576 N-95 respirators
· 8,950 KN-95 respirators
· 365,225 Surgical masks
· 26,300 Shoe covers
· 77,200 Gloves
· 230 Lab coats/ coveralls
· 4,332 Gowns/ scrubs/ scrub caps
· 300 Disposable scrub caps
· 163 Face shields/goggles
It was uncovered that Gulf Coast Pharmaceuticals Plus, LLC, under the direction and supervision of owner Kenneth Ritchey, was intentionally and feloniously price gouging medical facilities by excessively marking up and selling PPE that was in short supply at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, including Mississippi’s G.V. Sonny Montgomery VA Medical Center.
Kenneth Ritchey pled guilty to one count of price gouging and was ordered to pay nearly $60,000 in restitution to the G.V. Sonny Montgomery Veterans Administration Hospital, a maximum fine of $5,000, and all court costs. Ritchey also surrendered all PPE seized by law enforcement personnel to the Attorney General’s Office. In mid-January, representatives of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office contacted first responders, emergency management entities, health officials, and law enforcement associations asking organizations to complete a PPE request form, and all 189 unique organizations that submitted a request are receiving PPE. The AGO is no longer accepting PPE requests. All available PPE has been allocated and distribution will continue to occur over the next month.