CLEVELAND — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit this week against a Chagrin Falls man accusing him of price gouging during the sale of N95 face masks amid the current pandemic. Mario Salwan has just responded to that suit.
Here is the statement he sent to News 5:
"4/15/20 On Monday, the Ohio Attorney General filed a complaint against me alleging that at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, I amassed a large quantity of N-95 masks and then tried to sell them online at an exorbitant price. Contrary to the allegations of the complaint, I did not purchase a single N-95 mask at all during this pandemic, and I want to set the record straight.
I own a construction business and my employees use N-95 masks as basic personal protection when working with construction dust from concrete sanding. The masks are used on nearly all jobs. In March of 2019, well before the discovery of the coronavirus, my company purchased 2,800 N-95 masks, at a bulk purchase discount, for use on construction sites and used most of them for that purpose over the past year.
When the coronavirus “stay at home” orders were put in place, my construction business suffered, as did many small businesses in the United States. I realized my business would not need the same quantity of masks as before the pandemic, so to help keep the business afloat and generate an income, I offered one box of 10 N-95 masks for auction on eBay to determine the current market pricing. The box sold for $370.50 and I then offered more of the masks for sale, pre-packaged in their original boxes of 10 masks per box, for up to $375 per box over the following few days.
I did not buy the masks with the intention of selling them at all. No one had heard of the coronavirus when I bought them over a year ago. Once business slowed due to the coronavirus, I tried to get the masks I had purchased over a year ago into the hands of people who wanted them at a price that the market determined – and nothing more. My purchase of masks over a year ago did not contribute to the shortage of masks during this pandemic or limit the supply to health professionals, and my intent was not to hurt anyone.
I want to make this right and the best way I can think to do that is, subject to the Ohio Attorney General’s approval, donating the hundreds of masks I have remaining to our local healthcare facilities in northeast Ohio. Their employees are risking their lives every day to care for those suffering from COVID19 and should have access to more personal protective equipment. In addition, for the past seven years my business has supported The Race benefitting University Hospitals and I plan to continue to donate money to organizations that support our local hospital systems, which are the best in the world.
I’m sorry I did this. This whole matter has caused my employees and family to fear for their safety. I will do better. I know my actions angered many, but I humbly ask the people I upset to please refrain from threatening my employees and family. I hope that we all can live peacefully together moving forward through these unprecedented times."
Attorney General Yost has asked for a temporary restraining order, forfeiture of the masks, and more against Salwan.