Coronavirus: Ohio man accused of price gouging, selling face masks at nearly 18 times retail price

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A northeast Ohio man is accused of price gouging and selling N95 respirator masks at nearly 18 times the retail price.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit against Mario F. Salwan of Chagrin Falls and others operating on eBay under the username Donkey476.

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The lawsuit names Salwan and John Does 1 through 100 as the defendants.

“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.”

In March, the group acquired more than 1,200 N95 masks.

Ohio officials have previously discussed a shortage of the masks, which health care workers use to protect themselves while treating coronavirus patients.

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On March 28, the eBay account sold 10 packages of masks to 15 purchasers at prices ranging from $360 to $375. The average prices was $363.43, or $36.64 per mask.

Prior to the pandemic, the masks were retailing at an average of $2.05 per mask.

An emergency room nurse whose husband is an emergency room physician saw the account’s store on eBay and reached out to ask them to reconsider the price, according to the lawsuit.

“Salwan’s response indicates not only his keen awareness of the crisis, but also his callous indifference to it: ‘You and your husband should work for free during this crisis, you are greedy!’” court documents read.

He is accused of violating the state’s Valentine Act, which prohibits unreasonable and unlawful restrictions to trade.

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The state also believes the eBay store violated the Consumer Sales Practices Act by selling the masks at a substantially higher price while there is an increase demand for the items.

Yost is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctions.

The state is asking the court to make the Donkey476 eBay store surrender all N95 masks in exchange for reasonable compensation.

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