PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- More than 200,000 counterfeit surgical masks were seized in Phoenix over the last 45 days, some of them at Sky Harbor Airport. The masks were all intended for hospital workers and medical staff throughout the nation.
Homeland Security and Border Patrol agents made the seizures. “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,” said Scott Brown, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Phoenix.
Back in October, federal officers assigned to Sky Harbor inspected an inbound, imported shipment and found it contained 3M N95 masks. One sample mask was removed from the shipment, and it was determined to be counterfeit.
More counterfeit masks were found at the warehouse of a small business linked to the investigation. They ended up being the same type of masks seized at the airport.
Agents also discovered an additional ten pallets of counterfeit masks that had already been shipped to hospitals throughout the nation for healthcare workers to use.
Which masks are best, and how do you wear them for the most protection?
An N95 mask is said to be a gold standard for protecting yourself. It's designed to form a tight seal around your mouth and nose. A "real" N95 mask should filter out at least 95% of small particles from the air, including bacteria and viruses -- making them a crucial piece of equipment for doctors and nurses.
"Customs and Border Protection is committed to protecting the American consumer against the substandard and potentially unsafe counterfeit consumer goods," said Guadalupe Ramirez, Director of Customs and Border Protection's Tucson Field Office.
"As the federal entity responsible for conducting oversight of the nation's largest integrated health care system, the VA Office of Inspector General is committed to ensuring all health care workers receive genuine, high-quality personal protective equipment," said Anthony Russo with the VA. "The VA OIG will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to aggressively pursue any bad actors attempting to introduce counterfeit products into the VA and other medical supply chains."
Operation Stolen Promise
Back in April, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and Homeland Security launched "Operation Stolen Promise," an effort to protect U.S. consumers from pandemic-related fraud and scams.
The operation investigates financial fraud schemes, the importation of prohibited pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, e-commerce schemes, and any other illicit criminal activities associated with COVID-19 crisis.