April 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services said more than half a million personal protective medical equipment confiscated from a person hoarding the supplies will be sent to health officials on the frontlines fighting the coronavirus in New York and New Jersey.
Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered the supplies Monday during an operation by the Justice Department's COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force, the department said, adding it was authorized to distribute the supplies under the Defense Production Act, which President Donald Trump invoked last week.
The supplies include 192,000 N95 respirator masks, 598,000 medical grade gloves and 130,000 surgical masks as well as surgical gowns, disinfectant towels, particulate filters and bottles of hand sanitizer and spray disinfectant.
"If you are amassing critical medical equipment for the purpose of selling it at exorbitant prices, you can expect a knock at your door," said Attorney General William Barr in a statement. "The Department of Justice's COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force is working tirelessly around the clock with all our law enforcement partners to ensure that bad actors cannot illicitly profit from the COVID-19 pandemic facing our nation."
The Department of Justice said after the supplies are inspected the Department of Health and Human Services will arrange for their delivery to the New Jersey Department of Health, the New York State Department of Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Since the United States confirmed its first COVID-19 infection on Jan. 21, the outbreak has become the world's largest with more than 245,000 people ill with the disease, including more than 90,000 cases in New York, the worst-hit state in the union, and more than 25,000 in New Jersey, the second-hardest hit state, according to a live tracker of the virus by Johns Hopkins University.
Last week, Trump signed an executive order to prevent the hoarding and price gouging of medical equipment, which was followed by the creation of the task force to confiscate such supplies.
"Cracking down on the hoarding of vital supplies allows us to distribute this material to the heroic healthcare workers on the frontlines who are most in need," said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
The Department of Justice added that the Department of Health and Human Services will pay the person who they confiscated the supplies from "fair market value" for them.