CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio — The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has filed a price-gouging lawsuit against a Cuyahoga County man that claims he sold N95 masks for hundreds of dollars, around 18 times the actual retail price.
According to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, the Chagrin Falls man, who went by the username Donkey476, sold the masks and other products like hand sanitizer and toilet paper on eBay.
“There’s another word for donkey that immediately comes to mind when thinking about these folks,” Yost said. “We will continue to take action against anyone else in this state price gouging during this pandemic.”
Authorities say that the man and his cohorts bought more than 1,200 N95 masks in March that “set the stage for them to reap exorbitant profits from the ongoing public health crisis.”
Donkey476 posted 10 packs of N95 masks online at a purchase price of between $360 to $375. Prior to the pandemic, the average individual price of the masks was around $2.05, authorities stated.
The lawsuit says that an emergency room nurse and her husband, an emergency room doctor, found Donkey476’s listing online and reached out to him to ask him to reconsider the price for healthcare workers who are in dire need of the supplies due to a growing shortage of personal protection gear, authorities said.
Yost’s office said that when Donkey476 replied to the nurse, he showed “not only his keen awareness of the crisis but also his callous indifference to it.” Donkey476 reply to the nurse was: “You and your husband should work for free during this crisis, you are greedy!”
According to the AG’s Office, Ohio’s Valentine Act, which is an antitrust law, gives the attorney general broad powers to take action against individuals who “conspire to restrain trade and commerce or monopolize markets in Ohio.” Authorities said that by hoarding the items and trying to sell them at an extreme markup, Donkey476 violated the Valentine Act.
“The state also believes Donkey476 committed unfair or deceptive acts or practices in violation of Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act by offering goods for sale at prices substantially increased because of an increased demand for the products caused by this national emergency,” authorities said.
The lawsuit seeks to have Donkey476 surrender all of his N95 masks in exchange “reasonable compensation.” It also seeks to have a temporary restraining order that would stop Donkey476 from acquiring masks that exceed his personal or household needs for 30 days. Additionally, the restraining order would prevent him from selling or throwing away masks without the court’s approval.
Authorities said they are also seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction and statuary civil forfeiture against Donkey476.
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