COVID Feature: Unmasking Covid-19 Fraud

Close-up Of A Doctor's Hand Analyzing Report On White Desk

Fraudsters have been exploiting protections meant to aid those impacted by COVID-19 for several months now. Fortunately, law enforcement agencies from across the country have been vigilantly working to detect and prosecute those responsible for committed frauds as fast as possible.

Pharmacist Richard Schirripa of Fort Salonga, New York is one of the many identified fraudsters accused of taking advantage of the pandemic. Known by his alias, “the Mask Man,” Schirripa is suspected of price gouging the sale of N95 masks, which are essential for healthcare workers to be able to safely care for patients while minimizing their own risk for exposure. (Luckily, authorities have unmasked this fraudster so he can be brought to justice.)

Schirripa spent $200,000 accumulating N95 masks in March when the pandemic first began to spread. He allegedly went on to sell them online for up to a 50 percent increase. (The ultimate downfall of all fraudsters is their own greediness.) By greatly increasing the price of N95 masks to make a profit, Schirripa violated the Defense Production Act. (The Defense Production Act is meant to mobilize private and public efforts to aid the country during times of national crisis.)

Schirripa also faces several other charges including lying to law enforcement, defrauding Medicare and Medicaid, and stealing the personal information of his pharmacy’s customers to fill prescriptions. (Just a short COVID-19 laundry list of crimes committed.)

In an unrelated case, a New Jersey car salesman has been charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and conspiring to violate the Defense Production Act as well. (The alleged fraudster attempted to exploit the fact that New York City was an epicenter of the pandemic and was in dire need of medical supplies and assistance.)

Ronald Romano allegedly lied about having a large stock of N95 masks and attempted to sell the nonexistent masks to New York City for $45 million dollars. (I wonder what his plan was for when it was discovered he didn’t have the promised masks. I’m guessing he didn’t think that far ahead.) Both Romano and Schirripa could face years in prison for their attempted COVID-19-related schemes.

If you have a tip about a COVID-19 fraud, please report it to the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via their NCDF Web Complaint Form. 

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Pharmacist, used car salesman charged with COVID-19 fraud,” published by The Associated Press on May 26,2020

NEW YORK — A pharmacist and a used car salesman were arrested Tuesday on charges that they designed frauds to capitalize on the search for masks and other protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pharmacist Richard Schirripa, 66, of Fort Salonga, New York, was listed with the alias “the Mask Man” as he was charged with several crimes, including violating the Defense Production Act by hoarding and price gouging scarce N95 masks.


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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.