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Mississippi Man Charged For Hoarding Personal Protective Equipment Gear

GETTY IMAGES/(Photo by Isabel Infantes / AFP) (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)

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A Mississippi man was charged for hoarding personal protective equipment (PPE) gear in a defrauding scheme, officials announced Wednesday, according to a Justice Department press release.

Kenneth Bryan Ritchey, a 57-year-old businessman, faces charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and hoarding scarce materials, according to the press release. Ritchey reportedly intended to price gouge health care workers, including those in the Department of Veterans Affairs, in a $1.8 million scheme.

Ritchey began pressuring health care providers to buy PPE, such as N-95 masks, at “excessively” high costs through misrepresentation shortly after the U.S confirmed its first COVID-19 case, according to the release. (RELATED: US Should ‘Create Alternatives To Chinese Supply That Uses Forced Labor,’ Experts Say)

STAMFORD, CT - MARCH 23: Health workers dressed in personal protective equipment (PPE) handle a coronavirus test at a drive-thru testing station at Cummings Park on March 23, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut. Availability of protective clothing for medical workers has become a major issue as COVID-19 cases surge throughout the United States. The Stamford site is run by Murphy Medical Associates. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Availability of protective clothing for medical workers has become a major issue as COVID-19 cases surge throughout the United States. The Stamford site is run by Murphy Medical Associates. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Ritchey went to court in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Myers of the Southern District of Mississippi on Wednesday, the press release said. The FBI’s Jackson Field Office investigated the case, which will be prosecuted by Principal Assistant Deputy Chief Dustin M. Davis, Trial Attorney Sara E. Porter of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathlyn R. Van Buskirk of the Southern District of Mississippi.

The Justice Department told the Daily Caller News Foundation Ritchey will face 30 years maximum in prison if convicted.

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