CHICAGO (CBS) — Customs officials said they seized 500,000 counterfeit N95 masks at O’Hare International Airport last week, as the shipment was en route from China to New Jersey.
Homeland Security Investigation officials instructed U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at O’Hare to seize the shipment arriving from Schenzhen, China, on Sept. 10.
Once it was seized, officers removed 30 masks from the shipment, and sent them to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention office in West Virginia for testing. The CDC concluded 10% of the masks had a filter efficiency rating below the required 95%. The remaining masks were turned over to Homeland Security for further investigation.
“These masks did not meet the safety standards outlined by the CDC, which puts the public at risk, jeopardizing the health and well being of everyone,” said Shane Campbell, CBP’s area port director in Chicago
According to CBP, the seized masks had a suggested retail price of $474,905, but an estimated value of more than $3 million, due to the high demand for N95 masks during the pandemic.
The masks were being shipped to a company in Manalapan, New Jersey.
“Certain organizations are attempting to exploit the limited supply of and increased demand for some pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment and other medical goods required to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other products, these criminals are smuggling and selling counterfeit safety equipment, unapproved COVID-19 test kits, unproven medicines and substandard hygiene products through the online marketplace,” CBP stated in a press release.