Businessman charged with hoarding PPE, price gouging health providers

A picture of handcuffs and money
Officials allege that after the first U.S.-confirmed case of COVID-19, Kenneth Bryan Ritchey, 57, of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, began acquiring and hoarding personal protective equipment and other designated materials from all possible sources, including home improvement stores and online retailers. (Getty Images/alfexe)

A Mississippi man was charged with allegedly attempting a $1.8 million scheme to hoard personal protective equipment and price gouging healthcare providers, including several U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals.

Department of Justice (DOJ) officials said Kenneth Bryan Ritchey, 57, of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, was charged in the Southern District of Mississippi with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to commit hoarding of designated scarce materials and hoarding of designated scarce materials.

Officials allege that after the first U.S.-confirmed case of COVID-19, Ritchey began acquiring and hoarding PPE and other designated materials from all possible sources, including home improvement stores and online retailers. The DOJ alleges Ritchey directed sales representatives to solicit healthcare providers, including the VA, to purchase PPE and other designated materials at "excessively inflated prices through high-pressure sales tactics" as well as through misrepresenting sourcing and actual costs.

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For example, they alleged Ritchey sold N95 masks to the VA and other healthcare providers for as much as $25 per mask, despite acquiring such masks at much lower prices.  

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Jackson Field Office, VA-OIG and ICE HSI. Principal Assistant Deputy Chief Dustin Davis, trial attorney Sara Porter of the criminal division’s fraud section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathlyn Van Buskirk of the Southern District of Mississippi are prosecuting the case.