LEXINGTON, KY- Nathan Brown, 47, CEO of Old World Timber, a Lexington company specializing in antique wood reclamation, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell on Thursday to 10 months in prison for selling misbranded N95 respirator masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the fall of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown directed his company to begin importing and selling medical-grade 3M™ N95 respirators (masks). Old World Timber purchased more than 100,000 alleged 3M N95 masks from a company in China, and resold them to customers throughout the United States. In his plea agreement, Brown acknowledged that by March 2021, information from multiple sources, including 3M’s COVID-19 Fraud and Counterfeit Product Response Team, alerted him to the high probability that the masks he imported from China were counterfeit. Brown deliberately ignored these concerns and directed his company to continue selling the masks, misleading customers as to their authenticity. Between March 3, 2021 and April 9, 2021, Brown caused OWT to sell 57,460 misbranded masks for a total of $129,353.
Under federal law, Brown must serve 85 percent of his prison sentence. Upon his release from prison, he will be under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office for one year. Brown was also ordered to pay $129,353 in restitution.
Carlton S. Shier, IV, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky; George A. Scavdis, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations Metro Washington Field Office; and James C. Harris, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, Baltimore Field Division, jointly announced the sentence.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The United States was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Will Moynahan.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
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