Illinois business owner accused of buying masks for $5, selling them for $19.99

N95 mask
N-95 mask Photo credit Getty Images

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — The owner of a Skokie-based medical supply company is accused of price-gouging as he sold face masks to people during the pandemic.

What the customers wanted was N-95 masks, considered the gold standard against getting infected with the coronavirus. And federal prosecutors say 60-year-old Krikor Topouzian of Winnetka typically sold them for $19.95 each — a markup of anywhere from 185% to 367%, depending on what he originally bought them for.

Prosecutors say Topouzian accumulated more than 79,000 masks, including N-95s, and paid roughly $5 for each. Authorities say this is illegal price-gouging, and the businessman could face up to a year in prison.

He faces one count of violating the Defense Production Act of 1950.

“Amassing and reselling personal protective equipment at large markups during a global health crisis is not only greedy, it’s illegal,” U.S. Attorney John Lausch, Jr., said in a statement.

Topouzian has not yet been arraigned on the charges.