More than 200K counterfeit surgical masks seized by customs officers in Arizona

Fines and possible jail time for those not wearing masks during pandemic

PHOENIX — More than 200,000 counterfeit surgical-grade face masks were confiscated by customs officers, the Department of Homeland Security announced on Tuesday.

The retail value of the masks topped $1 million, according to The Arizona Republic.

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According to a news release, in October, officials from Immigrants and Custom Enforcement intercepted a shipment at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and found crates that contained what appeared to be 3M N95 masks, After examining the masks, which were stamped with the 3M logo, officials determined that the masks were counterfeit, KNXV reported.

The seizures were the culmination of an investigation into a company that officials suspected of selling counterfeit N95 masks, the Republic reported. The mask gets its name because it is 95% efficient at filtering out small particles.

In December, agents tracked a shipment from the unnamed company to another business, the newspaper reported. There, agents found 20,000 more counterfeit masks that looked similar to those seized at the airport in October, according to the news release.

Agents also discovered an additional 10 pallets of counterfeit masks that had already been shipped to hospitals nationwide for health care workers to use, KTVK reported.

The news release did not name the company under investigation.

“Homeland Security Investigations and our partner agencies are committed to identify and seize these potentially hazardous medical products before they could harm our frontline workers,” Scott Brown, special agent in charge for HSI Phoenix, said in a statement. “These seizures illustrate the ongoing efforts of HSI, CBP and private industry in keeping our communities and medical staff safe and free from counterfeit products. Often, this battle is fought behind the scenes and unknown to the general public, but they can be assured that our mission remains firmly committed to protecting the health and safety of our medical workers, no matter what.”

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