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Feds seize fake Covid-19 test kits and masks at local border crossings

Six thousand fake Covid-19 test kits.

More than 3,400 fake N95 masks.

Those are among the fraudulent goods seized in recent weeks at U.S.-Canada border crossings in Western New York.

As part of a crackdown known as Operation Stolen Promise, agents from Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection also seized thousands of fake doses of chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine – the drug touted by President Trump – and other medications linked to the virus.

“The unfortunate reality is there are criminal enterprises actively exploiting Americans while they are at their most vulnerable,” Kevin Kelly, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Buffalo, said in a statement Wednesday.

Officials did not indicate where the fake test kits and masks might have been headed, or whether arrests were made in connection with the local seizures.

Launched last month, Operation Stolen Promise was designed to investigate criminal activity surrounding the pandemic and ensure the security of the global supply chain.

Nationally, the effort has focused on fraudulent Covid-19 websites and one of the results has been the seizure of 494 shipments of fake test kits, treatment kits and personal protective equipment.

The joint operation by Homeland Security Investigations and Customs also resulted in 315 investigations, 11 arrests, 21 search warrants and the seizure of $3.2 million across the country.

“We will continue to work together to protect the public from those who are attempting to profit from this pandemic,” Rose Brophy, Buffalo field office director for Customs and Border Protection, said in a statement.

Just weeks into the operation, Homeland Security Investigations agents said they are finding that criminal organizations with a history of financial scams are turning to schemes exploiting the pandemic and the accompanying stimulus package.

The agency also predicted that fraud scams involving stimulus payments and others forms of financial relief will increase in the coming weeks, and warned the public to be on alert.

Early on in the pandemic, U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. raised a red flag warning people about scammers already at work plotting how to steal their stimulus payments.

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