Queens DA Melinda Katz announced last week that her office arrested 33-year-old Zhi Zeng from Dyker Heights. Zeng has been charged with trademark counterfeiting for possessing and selling fake medical masks.
“This defendant allegedly sold false hope and security and was set to sell more of these counterfeit masks to whomever would pay his price,” Katz said in a statement. “We have confiscated the bogus merchandise and none of these unsafe masks will be distributed to the public or health care workers going forward.”
Zeng was arraigned before Queens Criminal Court last Wednesday, and was ordered to return to court on April 27. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
According to the charges, Zeng was the warehouse manager at the facility at 5-06 51st Avenue, which was raided by law enforcement. Authorities found stacks and stacks of boxes containing the fake masks inside the two-floor building.
The investigation began when the DA’s office received information that the suspected counterfeits were being offered for sale. Investigators then posed undercover and purchased masks several times to verify their authenticity.
Though they were being sold at prices between $2.95 and $3.25 apiece, the suggested retail price for 3M N-95 masks is actually $1.27.
“The public’s safety, especially that of our health care workers, is a priority,” said Peter Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations New York. “We will continue to work with our partners to ensure that each mask worn by our first responders is the real deal.”