NEW YORK - A Brooklyn man was arrested for allegedly coughing on FBI agents while claiming to have COVID-19, and with lying to them about a stash of surgical masks, medical gowns, and other medical supplies.
FBI agents arrested Baruch Feldheim, 43, on multiple charges.
He's accused of assaulting a federal officer and making false statements to law enforcement.
Federal prosecutors say that Feldheim allegedly sold certain designated materials, including N95 respirators, to doctors and nurses at inflated prices.
In one instance, on March 18, 2020, a doctor in New Jersey contacted Feldheim via a WhatsApp chat group labeled “Virus2020!” Feldheim agreed to sell to the doctor approximately 1,000 N95 masks and other assorted materials for $12,000, an approximately 700 percent markup from the normal price charged for those materials.
Feldheim directed the doctor to an auto repair shop in Irvington, New Jersey, to pick up the order.
According to the doctor, the repair shop contained enough materials, including hand sanitizers, Clorox wipes, chemical cleaning supply agents, and surgical supplies, to outfit an entire hospital.
Feldheim later told the doctor that he had been forced to move all of those supplies from Irvington to another location.
On March 23, 2020, Feldheim allegedly offered to sell a nurse a quantity of surgical gowns and directed the nurse to his home in Brooklyn. Feldheim also received, on March 25, 2020, a shipment from Canada containing approximately eight pallets of medical facemasks.
On March 27, 2020, FBI agents observed an empty box of N95 masks outside of Feldheim’s residence. Two days later they witnessed multiple instances during which individuals approached Feldheim’s residence and walked away with boxes or bags that appeared to contain medical supplies.
FBI agents approached Feldheim outside of his home.
After identifying themselves as FBI agents, they told Feldheim that they wanted to stay a distance away from him given concerns over the spread of coronavirus. When the agents were within four to five feet of him, Feldheim allegedly coughed in their direction without covering his mouth.
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.
Feldheim then told the agents that he worked for a company that bought and sold personal protective equipment and other materials and that he never took physical custody of the materials. Feldheim said that he did not possess large quantities of personal protective equipment materials and that he never sold them directly to individuals.
The assault charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. The false statements charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
It was unclear if he had a lawyer to speak on his behalf.