OCEAN TOWNSHIP - In response to a case in which scam artists sold 1,000 counterfeit respirators to Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, Senator Vin Gopal announced that he will introduce legislation enhancing penalties for any person who creates or distributes counterfeit medical drugs or devices during a state of emergency.
Under current law, the penalties for creation or distribution of counterfeit medical products can vary from a second, third, or fourth degree crime, depending on the nature of the crime committed. Under this bill, all instances of counterfeit creation or distribution during a state of emergency would be automatically upgraded in charge to a second-degree crime, punishable by a prison sentence of five to 10 years, a fine up to $150,000, or both.
“When we’re in a state of emergency like this one, we need to make sure our hospitals are getting the supplies they need efficiently, effectively, and quickly,” said Gopal (D-Long Branch). “For every dollar or second we waste on ineffective or fake products, we could potentially be losing lives.”
In the case of Holy Name Medical Center, the hospital ordered 1,000 form-fitting filtration respirators, and instead received phony masks made from cloth. According to Governor Murphy, fake mask scams have become far more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic, even as hospitals struggle to keep patients alive with their limited supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE).
“These scam artists are trying to take advantage of a medical system that’s been driven to desperation, and that’s unacceptable,” Gopal said. “Our healthcare workers and first responders are doing heroic work to fight back against this virus. It’s our responsibility to make sure they have the tools they need to get the job done, and that if a bad actor tries to take advantage of them, we crack down - hard.”