Federal and International, Law and Order

Suburban Chicago Businessman Found Guilty of Price Gouging N-95 Masks During Covid-19 Pandemic

Chicago, IL-(ENEWSPF)- The owner of a suburban Chicago medical supply company stands convicted of price gouging customers who sought to purchase scarce N-95 masks amid the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

In a bench trial, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole, convicted KRIKOR TOPOUZIAN, 62, of Winnetka, Ill., of violating the Defense Production Act.  The conviction is punishable by up to one year in federal prison.  Sentencing is set for Oct. 10, 2023, at 10:00 a.m.

Evidence at trial in federal court in Chicago showed that Topouzian was the owner and president of Concord Health Supply in Skokie, Ill.  Topouzian, in March and April of 2020, accumulated approximately 79,160 respirator masks. These included N-95 masks, for a mean price of approximately $5.08 per mask.  The President of the United States designated these types of masks as “scarce materials” under the Defense Production Act due to the then-ongoing pandemic.  Topouzian later sold the masks above prevailing market prices. He sold some for as high as $19.95 per mask – a markup of approximately 185% to 367% per mask.  Topouzian engaged in the price gouging despite repeated warnings, including from law enforcement, about the illegal nature of his conduct.

Written Findings of Face on Price Gouging Guilty Verdict

The Court issued written Findings of Fact as part of the guilty verdict.  The Court found that during the earliest days of the pandemic, Topouzian “was told by friends and customers on at least six separate occasions that the prices at which he was selling N-95 masks were too high.”  In response to one such warning, Topouzian responded, “Who is going to report me?…  I’ve already been threatened by so many people that they’re going to call the FBI.”  To offset negative online reviews about his company that included accusations of price gouging, Topouzian took action. He asked a relative to recruit friends to write fictitious online reviews complimentary of Topouzian’s company. 

The Court also found that, as Topouzian continued to sell the scarce masks over prevailing market prices. He boasted about “how much he was making and how cheap the masks were to buy and that he was making massive profits.”  In a text message cited in the Court’s Findings of Fact, Topouzian stated, “You can’t imagine my business. $50-80,000 a day. I did $1 million in the last couple weeks.”

Prosecuting Team

Morris Pasqual, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert W. “Wes” Wheeler, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI announced the conviction.  Valuable assistance was provided by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michelle Petersen and Peter M. Flanagan represent the government.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department of Justice created the COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force. This investigates and prosecutes illegal activity involving protective personal equipment.  Anyone wishing to report Covid-19 fraud, hoarding, or price-gouging can do so. Contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud’s National Hotline via phone: (866) 720-5721, or e-mail: [email protected].

This is a release from the United States Department of Justice.