By JUANA NORALES
Queens DA Melinda Katz on Thursday announced the arrest of a warehouse worker for allegedly selling over 1 million counterfeit N95 masks to frontline and healthcare workers.
In a virtual press conference Katz demonstrated the labels, packing slips and barcode used to construct the packaging of the fraudulent masks, allegedly made by Zhi Zheng, 33, in a Long Island City warehouse.
“They look like the real thing, they feel like the real thing,” she said. “We are now working to confirm the origin of these counterfeit masks.”
Inside the disheveled and grimy brick building boxes were piled and stacked high on “more than 100 shipping pallets,” Katz said.
An anonymous southern healthcare system disbursed more than $700,000 for the fraudulent masks signifying that front line healthcare workers were wearing the masks, prosecutors said.
Guidance from a confidential tip and undercover officers posing as buyers, advised prosecutors to transfer 1.7 million counterfeit masks from getting into the hands of unwary brands, Katz said.
“Today was about letting the public know that these masks are off the street.”
The investigation was ongoing and other workers at the warehouse could face charges, prosecutors said.