The foreign government allegedly wired money to purchase the masks, but the federal government stopped the transaction before it could be completed, denying Eleanya and Doolittle of the $275 million they expected to pocket, according to federal prosecutors. The remaining money would have gone to their “broker” and the foreign government’s own representatives, according to Reuters.
A federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment for the men on Nov. 19 that included conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud.
Doolittle was taken into custody the next day and made his first appearance before a judge Monday. An arraignment and detention hearing is schedule for Wednesday, according to federal prosecutors.
Eleanya turned himself in to authorities Tuesday and was expected to make his first appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam S. Sheldon later in the day.
If convicted, Doolittle and Eleanya each face up to five years in prison for conspiracy and up to 20 years in prison for each of the two counts of wire fraud. Each charge also carries a possible maximum fine of $250,000.
Ryan K. Patrick, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas, said Tuesday that his coronavirus “fraud point person has been investigating this case for months. Glad to finally see it come together.”
“PPE fraud and price gouging is still a thing. Report it when you see it,” he added.