With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic having caused a shortage of personal protective equipment, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has filed a lawsuit against a Chagrin Falls resident accused of hoarding N95 respirator masks and selling them online for almost 18 times their retail value.
Mario F. Salwan and co-conspirators are accused of operating a now-defunct eBay store under the username “Donkey476." They are accused of accelerating their acquisition of essential products including as N95 masks, hand sanitizer and toilet paper after seeing an opportunity to profit from increased demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s another word for donkey that immediately comes to mind when thinking about these folks,” Yost said in a release announcing the lawsuit. “We will continue to take action against anyone else in this state price gouging during this pandemic.”
Per the lawsuit, an emergency room nurse whose husband is an emergency room physician reached out to Donkey476 asking him to reconsider its pricing after coming across a listing for an N95 mask. In response, Salwan replied, "You and your husband should work for free during this crisis, you are greedy!”
The hoarding of such items and the related increase in prices of those items constitute a violation of the Valentine Act, which "gives the attorney general’s office broad powers to protect the public and foster fair and honest interstate and intrastate competition by instituting actions against those who conspire to restrain trade and commerce or monopolize markets in Ohio." The state also believes Donkey476 violated 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.
Yost is seeking a temporary restraining order, preliminary and permanent injunctions and statutory civil forfeiture. The state is also asking Donkey476 be forced to surrender all of its remaining N95 masks to the state in return for reasonable compensation.