3M lawsuit claims Ohio company ringleader in N95 mask fraud

3M has filed 14 lawsuits since January allegeging price gouging, counterfeiting

Mask company 3M filed a complaint last week against an Ohio-based company that it called the "ringleader" in N95 mask fraud, an ongoing issue for 3M during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the company.

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The company sued Preventative Wellness Consultants LLC  for falsely claiming to have access to millions of 3M brand N95 respirators and organizing a deceptive fraudulent scheme to offer them for sale at inflated prices to public health agencies, 3M told FOX Business in a statement.

Preventative Wellness Consultants claimed to represent 3M in order to convince another outside business, RX2Live, to act as the company's selling agent and deliver 10 million 3M mask sales at $4.95 per item, according to the Minneapolis StarTribune.

3M discovered through information produced in that lawsuit that Preventative Wellness was a ringleader in representing to RX2live and others that they represented 3M and had access to 3M brand N95 respirators. 3M has no relationship with Preventative Wellness or Rx2Live, according to the company.

The mask company also filed a separate complaint Monday against a man named Mao Yu and his affiliated companies, including California-based KM Brothers, for selling fake versions of its N-95 masks at inflated prices as a third-party seller on Amazon. Yu owns and operates KM Brothers.

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Preventative Wellness charged customers more than $350,000 for fake, damaged and insufficient N95 masks, 3M said in a press release.

"3M customers deserve authentic products at fair prices, and this scam is aimed at exploiting the demand for our critical products during the pandemic using 3M’s name connected with price gouging and counterfeiting,"Denise Rutherford, 3M senior vice president of corporate affairs, said in a statement.

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Neither Preventative Wellness nor KM Brothers immediately responded to requests for comment from FOX Business.

He added that the company's "collaboration with Amazon is one of the important ways we are working to prevent and combat fraud, and we will report this unlawful activity to law enforcement, as well."

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Amazon Vice President of Customer Trust and Partner Support Dharmesh Mehta said the tech giant, which has received criticism for not taking enough action against counterfeit and price-gouged items from third-party sellers, is "working with 3M to hold these bad actors accountable." The company has also stepped up its efforts to prevent price-gouging.

"There is no place for counterfeiting or price gouging on Amazon and we’re proud to be working with 3M to hold these bad actors accountable," Mehta said in a statement. "Amazon has long-standing policies against counterfeiting and price gouging and processes in place to proactively block suspicious products and egregious prices. When we find a bad actor violating our policies, we work quickly to remove the products and take action on the bad actor, as we’ve done here, and we welcome collaboration from brands like 3M.”

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3M has filed 14 lawsuits filed since January accusing different companies and individuals of price gouging and counterfeiting. The company has not changed the price of its masks since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The mask-maker has removed more than 3,000 websites globally with fraudulent or counterfeit 3M products, as well as more than 4,000 false or deceptive social media posts, according to the company's release.

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An earlier version of this story was updated to include information from 3M.