Amardeep Singh wears a face shield as he poses beside...

Amardeep Singh wears a face shield as he poses beside stocks of disinfectant in an Instagram post on April 7. Credit: US Attorney’s office for the Eastern District

A Woodbury man accused of price gouging and hoarding tons of personal protective equipment used in the COVID-19 pandemic was released Tuesday on a $50,000 bond and the condition he stop amassing vital goods and overcharging for them.

Amardeep Singh, 45, who also goes by the names Bobby Singh and Bobby Sidana, was the first person in the United States charged under the Defense Production Act, Eastern District U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said after prosecutors filed charges Friday.

Singh was charged in a federal complaint but was not required to enter a plea at his telephonic arraignment Tuesday before federal Magistrate Arlene Lindsay.

Lindsay, who usually sits in the Central Islip federal courthouse, also ordered Singh to surrender his passport and check in with pretrial service officers on a schedule they would determine, pending future hearings.

After the hearing, one of Singh’s attorneys, David Schwartz, said his client had not committed any crime because the defense act does not define precisely what constitutes hoarding or price gouging. A fundamental tenet of law is that a person has to be given notice of what constitutes a criminal act, Schwartz said.

Singh has a warehouse on Crooked Hill Road in Brentwood, a retail store on Old Country Road in Plainview, and also sells online, according to officials.

The retail store normally specializes in the sale of sneakers and clothing, but has a section called "CO-VID Essentials," according to the complaint.

Singh acquired and sold N-95 filtering respirators, disposable face masks, surgical masks, gloves, coveralls, medical gowns as well as clinical-grade sanitizing and disinfecting products — all in violation of the act, the complaint said

The Defense Production Act bars hoarding and price-gouging of "critical material essential to the national defense" as well as the accumulation of such equipment "in excess of reasonable demands of people or businesses." In addition, the act bans the sale of the material "in excess of prevailing market prices."

"Singh's amassing of critical personal protective equipment during a public health crisis and reselling it at huge markups places him squarely in the crosshairs of law enforcement," Donoghue said in a statement.

In a telephone interview Friday, one of Singh's attorneys, Bradley Gerstman, said his client was being unfairly "tarred and feathered in the press," for what was at best a misdemeanor charge.

But the government, in even bringing the charge, Gerstman said, did not realize his client's actual costs, and that a number of his customers were police officers, doctors as well as nurses and all unable to get protective equipment at their jobs.

In the past, Singh's business had been cited by Nassau County officials for selling outdated respirators and PPE equipment without proper labeling and instructions, and was warned by the state attorney general about its excessive pricing policies, the federal complaint said.

The federal case was investigated by the Postal Inspection Service.

From March 25 to April 8, Singh's business got 40 shipments of face masks weighing more than 1.6 tons, 14 shipments of disposal surgical gowns weighing more than 2.2 tons, six shipments of hand sanitizers weighing more than 1.8 tons, and seven shipments of digital thermometers weighing about 253 pounds, the complaint said.

As an example of Singh's price-gouging, officials said, Singh purchased face masks for seven cents each but sold them for $1 apiece — a markup of 1,328%.

In another example, officials said, Singh paid $8.50 each for 32-oz. bottles of hand sanitizer but sold them for $24.99 — a 194% markup.

In addition to retail sales, Singh sold in bulk, the complaint said. In one example, Singh charged a senior citizen's group $4.99 each for 500 respirator face masks — 185% above his cost.

In an unrelated criminal case involving personal protective equipment, two California men were charged Monday by Eastern District federal prosecutors with wire fraud for trying to swindle two people out of $4 million by selling them masks that did not exist or that the defendants did not own. The intended victims were identified only as a resident of Long Island and a resident of Queens, sources said.

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