3M (NYSE:MMM) announced today that it has resolved a federal court lawsuit in Indiana against an entity called ZeroAqua, halting a fraudulent N95 scheme involving the promise of billions of nonexistent N95 respirators.
The lawsuit was among a handful that 3M filed nationwide more than two months ago — part of a larger legal effort in which the Maplewood, Minn.–based manufacturing giant is combatting price-gouging related to the masks. The respirators are an important piece of protective equipment for healthcare workers treating people suffering from COVID-19.
3M has said all damages from its price-gouging lawsuits will go toward nonprofits helping people cope with the pandemic.
Defendants in the Indiana lawsuit resolved the case through a consent judgment, a court-entered permanent injunction, and a payment to 3M for donation to a COVID-19 related charity.
Zachary Puznak, a defendant in the case, testified that the architects of the scheme deceived him as they sought to defraud Indiana officials out of $14.25 billion for non-existent N95 respirators.
“I have testified under oath that the people who contacted me were attempting to take advantage of my best intentions and use me as a vehicle for their attempt to commit fraud on the State of Indiana. … I am cooperating and have turned over all my communications with the architects of this scheme to 3M, who will share them with law enforcement. I have also sat for a deposition to tell my story on the record to help educate the public officials, health care administrators, and the general public to ensure they do not fall victim to a similar scheme in the future,” Puznak said in an apology statement included in 3M’s news release out today.
3M plans additional court action against the people Puznak identified.
“We will continue our global fight against fraud and work with law enforcement to help punish bad actors,” said 3M senior counsel William Childs.