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CBP says 100,000 counterfeit N95 masks seized at U.S.-Mexico border

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CBP says 100,000 counterfeit N95 masks seized at U.S.-Mexico border
Federal authorities said the masks had an estimated value of $600,480. Photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Federal border authorities in Texas said they have seized more than 100,000 counterfeit surgical masks destined for hospital workers.

In a statement on Wednesday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the counterfeit 3M N95 masks were intercepted Dec. 3 at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Ysleta cargo facility in El Paso while en route to an unnamed East Coast hospital.

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The masks had an estimated retail price of $600,480.

"The seizure of these counterfeit surgical masks not only ensures the health and safety of our frontline healthcare workers by preventing them from receiving inferior personal protective equipment, it also protects the integrity of the American economy," said Erik P. Breitzke, acting special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations, El Paso.

RELATED COVID-19 cases, deaths spike in U.S.; Azar says vaccine approval coming

ICE HSI launched Operation Stolen Promise in April with the aim to crack down on rising fraud and crime exploiting the coronavirus pandemic.

The operation, which sees federal agencies working with Pfizer, 3M, Amazon and other private sector partners, has resulted in 187 arrests, $28 million worth in proceeds seized, $18.8 million worth in transactions either disrupted or recovered and tens of thousands of COVID-19-related Internet domains analyzed, according to ICE data.

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On Nov. 30, ICE announced it was launching Operation Stolen Promise 2.0 to identify and prevent the production, sale and distribution of unapproved or unauthorized COVID-19 products and drugs.

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"This large seizure of counterfeit surgical masks, destined for frontline medical workers, demonstrates the great collaborative effort between CBP and HSI," said Ysleta Port Director Arnoldo Gomez. "Counterfeit surgical masks pose a great risk to our medical community and any individual who may use them."

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