The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida alleges that Orlando-based Geftico LLC twice attempted to fraudulently sell the “likely nonexistent” respirators at “grossly inflated prices” to the strategic national stockpile while falsely affiliating itself with 3M.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified 3M that Geftico made the offers in March and April, according to Maplewood, Minn.-based 3M. The company said it confirmed that Geftico was not affiliated with it and that such a quantity of 3M respirators did not exist.
Geftico also falsely blamed the prices on 3M, claiming that 3M had changed prices “several times” in just a few days when 3M has not changed the prices it charges for respirators, 3M claims. The company is seeking an injunction to make Geftico stop its allegedly illegal activities and wants the company to pay damages, which 3M said it will donate to COVID-19-related nonprofit organizations.
Geftico could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit is the fourth filed recently by 3M against companies it claims have engaged in price-gouging and counterfeiting. The company said it is working with national and international law enforcement, state attorneys general, and with online retailers and technology companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook to identify and remove counterfeiters and price gougers from their sites and refer them to law enforcement authorities.
In the other three lawsuits, filed April 10, the company alleges that:
- New Jersey-based Performance Supply falsely claimed a business affiliation with 3M and offered to sell $45 million worth N95 respirators to New York City government officials at inflated prices.
- Utah-based Rx2Live falsely claimed to be a 3M distributor and offered millions of N95 respirators at inflated prices to healthcare provider Community Medical Centers (Fresno, Calif.).
- A John Doe defendant in Irving Texas falsely claimed to be a “3M Company Trust Account” able to sell millions of 3M-brand N95 respirators at inflated prices to New York City government officials.
“3M will continue to take action against those who exploit the demand for N95 respirators used by healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight,” said 3M SVP for corporate affairs Denise Rutherford in a news release. “We will continue to work with state, federal and international law enforcement to root out illegal behavior and put a stop to it.”
N95 respirators have been in short supply since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Some of the earliest reports of shortages in the U.S. occurred in early March. Since then, 3M has ramped up production of its face masks, making 1.1 billion annually with 400 million in the U.S., and has partnered with Ford to make its powered air-purifying respirators.