A Justice Department task force, whose mission is to find scammers looking to cash in on personal protective equipment during the pandemic, has sparked debate by some in the White House.
Politico noted the Justice Department rolled out the task force in late March to focus on price gouging and hoarding. Attorney General William Barr appointed Craig Carpenito, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, to lead the effort.
But White House officials expressed reservations and concerns about the task force’s approach, Politico said. And the website pointed out that some White House staffers, described by a source as “free-marketeers,” believe a massive influx of people wheeling and dealing for PPE is a sign the free market is working.
Now some advocates claim the task force isn’t strong enough when it comes to cracking down on COVID-19 profiteers. But Carpenito, in a column for Law360, said the task force has “commenced numerous enforcement actions."
“In addition, through prompt and vigorous investigations, the DOJ has disrupted numerous potential price gouging operations,” he said.
And in March, a Brooklyn man was arrested and charged with making false statements about his accumulation and sale of surgical masks, medical gowns and other medical supplies.
One source added: “There was an ongoing discussion, throughout the pursuing and building of the cases, about philosophical issues in play — prosecuting illegal activity, but not taking prosecutorial discretion to an extreme that wasn’t consistent with how DOJ would normally approach cases. The view that this was a philosophically complex issue was recognized both within the White House and within DOJ leadership, during a unique and unprecedented time.”
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