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A Brooklyn man who claimed to be infected with coronavirus was arrested this week after he coughed on a FBI agent.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the incident took place Monday when authorities confronted 43-year-old Baruch Feldheim about his alleged price-gouging essential medical supplies, including surgical masks, disinfectants, and medical gowns. Agents said the man was storing the supplies inside his Brooklyn home and peddling them to healthcare workers at inflated prices.
The FBI pointed to an alleged transaction on March 18, when Feldheim is believed to have sold a New Jersey doctor 1,000 masks for $12,000 — a reported 700 percent mark from the average price. The unidentified doctor told authorities he met the suspect at an auto repair shop in Irvington, New Jersey, to pick up the masks. After arriving at the shop, he reportedly saw a large stockpile of medical supplies that could "outfit an entire hospital."
Feldheim also allegedly received a large shipment of face masks from Canada on March 25; two days later, agents reportedly discovered an empty box of N95 masks outside the suspect's Brooklyn home. On March 29, investigators said they witnessed multiple individuals go to Feldheim's residence and walk away with boxes and/or bags of what appeared to be medical supplies. FBI agents approached the man shortly after, but tried to maintain their distance because of concerns over COVID-19.
"When the agents were within four to five feet of him, Feldheim allegedly coughed in their direction without covering his mouth," the U.S. Attorney's Office reported. "The agents then told him that they were looking for certain PPE materials and that they had information that Feldheim was in possession of large quantities of such materials. At that point, Feldheim told the FBI agents that that he had the coronavirus."
According to officials, Feldheim claimed that he worked for a company that purchased and sold personal protective equipment and that he never took physical custody of the items. He also denied having large quantities of PPE and claimed to have never sold the supplies to individuals.
Feldheim was ultimately charged with assault and making false statements to law enforcement. The charges carry maximum prison sentences of one and five years, respectively.