CHICAGO (CBS) — Customs officials seized more than 65,000 counterfeit N95 masks at O’Hare International Airport on Monday, after noticing the boxes contained grammatical errors and were giving off an odd chemical odor.
CBS 2’s Steven Graves has the story.READ MORE: COVID-19 In Illinois: State Reports Lowest Average Infection Rate In Two Weeks, But Hospitalizations Still Rising
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said the bogus masks arrived in a shipment from Colombia, and were destined for a company in Virginia. They were designed to look like 3M brand N95 type masks, but customs officials determined the shipment infringed on the 3M trademark and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health NIOSH trademark.
Federal authorities said criminal groups have been exploiting the demand for personal protective equipment and medicine during the COVID-19 pandemic by selling counterfeit products.
“These counterfeit masks are extremely dangerous and provide a false sense of security to American consumers,” said Hans Leiterman, assistant area port director with US Customs and Border Protection. “Unfortunately, there is no shortage of bad actors out there trying to take advantage of consumers during a global pandemic.”
In total, officials seized 65,280 counterfeit masks. Authorities said, had they been legitimate, they would have had a value of more than $400,000.
When it passed through the international mail facility at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, a chemical odor was one thing that seemed off.READ MORE: University Of Chicago Resumes In Person Classes After COVID Outbreak
“We also noticed a lot of grammatical errors on the packaging and the shipping,” said Steve Bansbach of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “We brought in a 3M representative who was able to look at the masks and tell us, yes, these are counterfeit.”
The fear is that the non-medical grade face coverings would have gone to an unsuspecting company or warehouse, possibly putting the public at risk.
“This is something happening worldwide and unfortunately smugglers are preying on fears during this pandemic,” Bansbach said.
It means officers at O’Hare’s mail site are continuously on high alert. Twenty percent of international shipments in the U.S. come through the facility.
But this is not the biggest mask confiscation in Chicago. Officers seized 500,000 of them in September.MORE NEWS: Lawyers, Community Leaders Calling On Department Of Justice To Investigate Death Of Adam Toledo