Here is a true sign of the times story. In late March the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (part of SEIU) announced that they’d discovered a stockpile of 39 million n95 masks. They proceeded to arrange for different hospitals in the region to purchase allotments from the cache. There were viral pressure campaigns launched against hospitals who didn’t rush forward to purchase. There were even bogus claims that the union had been caught ‘hoarding’ the masks.
What did happen is that the news got FEMA interested in seeing if they could seize the mask motherlode for the federal government – yet another part of the still murky confiscated supplies story. But this time things turned out differently. The US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Scott Brady, got involved because the broker who had located the masks for the union was based in Pittsburgh. But while Brady’s office and FBI agents were seeing whether they could seize the masks they discovered that the whole thing was a scam.
To be clear, Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West and even the broker in Pittsburgh are not suspected of any wrongdoing. The union has a bit of egg on its face but only for getting everyone’s hopes up. All evidence suggests they were acting in good faith. The union and the Pittsburgh broker were apparently the victims of a scam further upstream. The FBI is now investigating allegedly swindlers in Australia and Kuwait as the bad actors behind the whole scam.
Brady told the LA Times that investigators first got the idea something was wrong when 3M told them that the company had only produced 20 million n95 masks last year. Since the alleged 39 million masks were supposed to be 3M branded, they were likely counterfeits if they existed at all.
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