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December 9, 2020El Paso, TX, United StatesCOVID-19

ICE, CBP seize more than 100,000 counterfeit surgical masks intended for hospital workers

HSI El Paso members of the Commercial Fraud Group and CBP officers seized more than 100,000 medical surgical masks Dec. 7 after CBP officers intercepted a shipment of 5,004 boxes Dec. 3 at an El Paso Port cargo facility.

EL PASO, Texas — More than 100,000 counterfeit 3M N95 surgical masks destined to be used by hospital workers were seized Dec. 7 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

On Dec. 3, CBP officers at the Ysleta Cargo Facility initially intercepted the shipment of 100,080 3M N95 surgical masks with an MSRP of $600,480. The masks were in-transit at an El Paso bonded warehouse destined to a hospital on the East Coast.

ICE HSI special agents determined the masks were counterfeit after working with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and 3M Company.

“The seizure of these counterfeit surgical masks not only ensures the health and safety of our frontline health care workers by preventing them from receiving inferior personal protective equipment, it also protects the integrity of the American economy. We will continue to aggressively investigate, arrest and prosecute criminal counterfeiters who show a total disregard for human life and take advantage of a relentless world pandemic for economic gain.” said Erik P. Breitzke, acting special agent in charge of ICE HSI El Paso.

“HSI and CBP will continue to collaborate to prevent unauthorized and counterfeit products from getting to U.S. consumers to protect the health and safety of the American public and the American economy,” said Ysleta Port Director Arnoldo Gomez. “This large seizure of counterfeit surgical masks, destined for frontline medical workers, demonstrates the great collaborative effort between CBP and HSI. Counterfeit surgical masks pose a great risk to our medical community, and any individual who may use them.”

This shipment is in violation of Importation, Removal and Contrary to Law (19 U.S.C. 1595a(c)(2)(A)) and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. ICE HSI El Paso is investigating the seizure with assistance from CBP.

ICE HSI launched Operation Stolen Promise in April 2020 to protect U.S. consumers from the increasing and evolving threat posed by the pandemic. The operation involves various federal agencies, including CBP, the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, and multiple private sector partners, including Pfizer, 3M, Amazon and others.

Operation Stolen Promise combines ICE HSI’s expertise in global trade, financial fraud, international operations and cybercrime to investigate financial fraud schemes, the importation of prohibited pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, offending e-commerce schemes, and any other illicit criminal activities associated with the COVID-19 virus that may compromise legitimate trade, financial systems and/or endangers the public.

For more information or to report COVID fraud, visit the Operation Stolen Promise website.

Updated: 12/15/2020