Once upon a time, our country praised and rewarded Americans who were bright, insightful, industrious and visionary enough to see a coming need and, as entrepreneurs, fill it.
While the entrepreneur made money, of course — because that’s how capitalism built the greatest economy the world has ever seen — people had their needs fulfilled at the same time.
It was win-win, and in capitalism, that’s the objective.
But now, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, being too entrepreneurial can not only backfire on you, it could also land you in jail.
As reported by Zero Hedge, a New York businessman who saw the coronavirus pandemic coming and stocked up on personal protective equipment before most others were aware of what was about to happen is being charged with violating the Defense Production Act for “hoarding” and “price gouging.”
The site adds:
45 year old Amardeep Singh was storing the items at a warehouse in Long Island and was selling the items – at a hefty mark-up – from his store in Plainview. For his business acumen in the “land of the free”, he now faces up to a year of jailtime …
President Trump’s March 18 executive order made it illegal to hoard medical supplies and then re-sell them at “excessive” prices.
And of course, the charges of ‘hoarding’ and ‘excessive pricing’ is largely subjective and arbitrary; what one man saw as an incredible business opportunity, some government lawyer sees as a national security threat. Unreal.
Singh’s attorney noted that his client was unaware he was breaking any U.S. laws — and why would he have been? After all, he is a visionary; he saw what was coming long before President Trump invoked the DPA.
Not only that, the attorney said, “This Defense Production Act is a very general law which lacks any specificity on what exactly price gouging is.
“Once all the facts are laid out, you will see that my client didn’t violate the law. We deny any wrongdoing that my client gouged on any profits. He’s innocent and will be cleared,” the lawyer, Bradley Gerstman, added, according to Bloomberg News.
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said that Singh, also known as “Bobby Sidana,” began buying protective equipment in mid-March and ‘hoarded’ them in his store. He created a special section called “COVID-19 Essentials.”
The products included N95 masks, which are now in demand everywhere — especially by healthcare providers — as well as face shields, surgical masks, gloves and disinfectants.
Singh was selling three-ply disposable face masks for $1 each; he paid about 7 cents apiece for them, or a markup of about 1,328 percent, according to Donoghue, citing records taken from the store. Singh made bulk sales to groups that were servicing senior citizens and children who were stricken with the virus, records said. (Related: Plants have “lungs” and humans have influenced the way they breathe, study says.)
The businessman “saw the devastating Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to make illegal profits on needed personal protective equipment,” said Craig Carpenito, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New Jersey who is also head of the Justice Department’s Covid-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force.
Bloomberg added that the government then stole all of Singh’s supplies:
U.S. postal inspectors seized 23 shipping pallets containing more than 100,000 face masks, 10,000 surgical gowns, 2,500 full-body isolation suits and more than 500,000 pairs of disposable gloves at Singh’s warehouse.
The news site noted that Singh had also been sanctioned by the Nassau County Department of Consumer Affairs and warned by the New York State attorney general, the latter of whom sent him a cease-and-desist letter after warning that he was selling hand sanitizer and other products at “unconscionably excessive prices.”
But was he? That certainly seems to be a matter of interpretation. And besides, why cherry-pick whom to prosecute? Because aren’t the Big Pharma outfits selling their products at “unconscionably excessive prices” all the time?