CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is suing a Northeast Ohio man for hoarding and price gouging personal protective equipment personal during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mario F. Salwan, of Chagrin Falls, is accused of operating an online store on eBay with other individuals where they sold N95 masks for nearly 18 times the retail price
According to Yost’s office, Salwan and his co-conspirators acquired more than 1,200 N95 respirator masks in March.
On March 28, under the now-defunct eBay user name “Donkey476," Salwan began selling packages of 10 masks for between $360 to $375 dollars each, with prices averages $36.34 per mask.
Prior to the pandemic, Yost says the average retail price per mask was $2.05.
According to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Franklin County, an emergency room nurse whose husband is an emergency room physician saw Donkey476’s listing for N95 masks on eBay.
The nurse contacted Salwan to “urge him to reconsider his exorbitant prices for equipment that health-care workers desperately need of because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Salwan responded by telling the nurse, “You and your husband should work for free during this crisis, you are greedy!” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit accuses Salwan and his co-conspirators of violating the Valentine Act, Ohio’s antitrust law, and the Consumer Sales Practices Act.
The state also wants the court to order Donkey476 to surrender all of its N95 masks to the state in exchange for “reasonable compensation”.
“There’s another word for donkey that immediately comes to mind when thinking about these folks,” said Yost. “We will continue to take action against anyone else in this state price gouging during this pandemic.”
Ohio lawmakers recently introduced legislation to prevent retailers from price gouging during a declared emergency.
If passed, Senate Bill 301 would also crack down on panic buying by limiting the amount of goods consumers can buy.