An Ocean Springs businessman has been charged for his role in a $1.8 million scheme to hoard PPE and price gauge health care providers during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
57-year-old Kenneth Bryan Ritchey faces multiple charges for allegedly participating in the scheme including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit hoarding of designated scarce materials, and hoarding of designated scarce materials.
The indictment alleges that Ritchey, following the confirmation of the country’s first COVID-19 case, bought PPE from all possible sources (home improvement stores and online retailers) before hoarding the materials. He then, according to officials, “directed sales representatives to solicit health care providers, including the VA, to purchase PPE and other designated materials at excessively inflated prices through high-pressure sales tactics and through misrepresenting sourcing and actual costs.”
“It is alleged that Ritchey sold PPE to health care providers desperate to acquire the same at incredible markups. For instance, the indictment alleges that Ritchey sold N-95 masks to the VA and other health care providers for as much as $25.00 per mask, despite acquiring such masks at much lower prices,” the indictment reads.
The indictment comes after the FBI raided Ritchey’s pharmacy in April 2020, seizing more than 280,00 masks, according to the Associated Press.
The public is asked to report COVID-19 fraud, hoarding or price-gouging to the National Center for Disaster Fraud’s (NCDF) National Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or visit The Department of Justice’s NCDF website.