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Georgia man who tried to sell 50 million masks he didn’t have to foreign government sentenced

Andrew Trunsky, DCNF

A Georgia man was sentenced to just under six months in home confinement after he admitted to attempting to sell over $300 million worth of N95 masks that he did not have to a foreign government, federal prosecutors said.

Paul Penn was sentenced after he was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in May. He pleaded guilty to the charges, said Bobby L. Christine, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, adding that Penn was also fined $1,500 and will serve three years probation.

“This case should serve as a strong deterrent to those considering exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic to enrich themselves through fraud,” said Glen M. Kessler, the Resident Agent in Charge of the Secret Service office in Savannah, Georgia.

Penn relied on his company, Spectrum Global Holdings LLC, to communicate with anonymous co-conspirators to position himself as a middleman in the sale of 50 million 3M Model 1860 respirator masks to a foreign government, Christine’s office said in his statement.

Despite not having the masks to sell, he acted as the broker for the $317 million sale for a cut of the profits, the statement added. The asking price was 500% higher than what N95 masks are normally valued.

After the Secret Service disrupted the transaction, the funds were returned to the unnamed foreign government, the statement said.

“If not for the vigilance of the U.S. Secret Service, Paul Penn and his co-conspirators likely would have lit the fuse on an international scandal by ripping off a friendly foreign government for more than $300 million,” Christine said. “Instead, they halted the scheme before the criminals got a dime, and prevented these crooks from profiting from pandemic fear.”

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