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Nassau fines businesses for price-gouging on masks

New York Attorney General Letitia James warned businesses

New York Attorney General Letitia James warned businesses about overcharging for protective masks and other products as the coronavirus spreads. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau's Office of Consumer Affairs has fined two businesses $5,000 each for price gouging for protective masks and is probing more than a dozen other reports of unfair trade violations related to the coronavirus emergency, county officials said Tuesday.

Officials declined to identify the businesses' names but said one retailer is a pharmacy in Island Park and the other is a convenience store in Hicksville. 

Investigators also sent a warning to a pharmacy in Glen Head. All the cases involved improperly charging for protective masks.

The Island Park pharmacy was selling N95 masks for $5 each from open boxes of 20, county officials said, while the Hicksville store was selling them for 100 times the wholesale price.

In both instances, the masks were labeled "not for individual sale," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.

"They got the message. We hope everybody else gets the message that price gouging will be penalized. You will be penalized. Our investigators are out there working on this," Curran announced in Mineola. 

Officials said they also have found price gouging by retailers in New York City. 

New York Attorney General Letitia James sent cease and desist letters to a hardware store in Manhattan and a grocery store in Queens for excessive prices on hand sanitizer and disinfectant.

Investigators found Scheman & Grant Hardware in midtown was charging customers $79.99 for 1200 mL of hand sanitizer, James said. City Fresh Market in Astoria was charging customers $14.99 for a 19-ounce bottle of disinfectant spray, according to investigators.

“On my watch, we will not tolerate schemes or frauds designed to turn large profits by exploiting people’s health concerns,” James said in a statement.

“While there remains no cause for widespread panic, some people are looking to prey on others’ anxiety and line their own pockets,” James said.

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