The Washington State Hospital Association and the University of Washington are suing a Texas company for allegedly selling them millions of dollars worth of counterfeit N95 masks early in the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a lawsuit filed Thursday in King County Superior Court, the first year of the pandemic has left hospitals and health care organizations scrambling to get their hands on enough personal protective equipment for staff. , including medical masks, gowns and gloves that had fallen into short supply. at a critical moment.
In fall 2020, the hospital association and UW Medicine learned that a Dallas company called CJFS Corporation was selling 3M-branded N95 masks, according to the complaint. The WSHA purchased more than 600 cases of Model 1860 N95 masks from 3M for $1.4 million, while UW Medicine purchased approximately 4,700 cases of Model 1860 and 1860S N95 masks for $2.6 million, according to the complaint.
UW Medicine’s shipment of masks arrived in early December 2020, but employees quickly noticed that the manufacture and expiration dates printed on some of the packaging were the same. When UW Medicine asked CJFS about the dates, the company acknowledged it was a “printing error” and agreed to replace the masks.
UW Medicine retained approximately 85,000 of the Model 1860S masks that did not have an incorrect expiration date and returned the affected masks to CJFS. About two weeks later, UW Medicine received replacements from CJFS.
Towards the end of December, the WSHA received its shipment of masks and began distributing them to hospitals.
In January 2021, however, 3M – one of the world’s largest producers of N95 masks – issued a statement warning customers and medical personnel to be aware of counterfeit masks that had begun circulating in the PPE supply of the country. In the statement, 3M listed lot codes that matched specific fake mask models not made by the company, which matched those WSHA and UW Medicine had received.
After realizing that the masks they had received were fake, WSHA and UW Medicine contacted 3M, which confirmed that the masks sold by CJFS were not genuine, and subsequently received a counterfeit product alert notice from CJFS, according to the complaint.
“It is undisputed that CJFS supplied counterfeit N95 masks to WSHA and (UW Medicine),” the lawsuit states.
WSHA CEO Cassie Sauer said in a statement at the time that the masks had the proper paperwork and had passed physical inspection and testing before being sent to hospitals.
“These N95 masks are valuable resources that we need to keep staff safe,” Sauer said. “It is wrong for counterfeiters to sell counterfeit products.”
Yet, according to the complaint, CJFS has yet to reimburse or send authentic masks to WSHA and UW Medicine.
The CJFS president did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Washington isn’t the only state grappling with counterfeit mask operations throughout the pandemic. Federal authorities, including the Food and Drug Administration, have said they are trying to crack down on fake PPE — much of which is sold on Amazon — and revoked authorization for Chinese-made KN95s. They also continue to work with customs officials to stop banned imports, according to The New York Times.
Since the start of the pandemic, border agents have seized some 34 million counterfeit masks.
Fraudulent coronavirus testing sites have also sprung up across the United States in the past two years, including in Washington state, where a company is being investigated for allegedly tampering with test results. tests and lied to patients.
The testing centers “threatened the health and safety of our communities,” state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement this week. “They need to be held accountable.”