Michigan Man Charged with N95 Mask Scam

The United States has brought charges against a Michigan man accused of creating a fake e-commerce company that sold N95 masks online but didn't deliver them to customers. 

Rodney L. Stevenson II has been charged with wire fraud for his operation of an e-commerce website that allegedly scammed customers into paying for protective face masks that they never received. 

The 24-year-old Muskegon resident sold "Anti-Viral N95" masks for more than $40 per mask through the website EMGeneral.com, controlled by the limited liability company EM General, created by Stevenson in September 2019. While some customers were fobbed off with emails containing excuses about shipping issues, others said they were sent cheap fabric masks that did not conform to N95 standards. 

N95s are particulate-filtering facepiece respirator masks that meet the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health N95 standard of air filtration, requiring them to filter at least 95% of airborne particles.

Stevenson is accused of using stock photos from the internet to create an entirely fictitious professional management team for his e-commerce company. The nonexistent team was headed by CEO "Mike Thomas," whose identity Stevenson allegedly hid behind to send emails to customers who purchased masks, offering them more masks at a discount. 

Demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including face masks, has gone through the roof since the outbreak of COVID-19 in almost every country in the world. Lockdown measures imposed in an effort to slow the spread of the deadly virus mean shoppers are turning to online stores to meet their PPE needs.

"While sheltering in place, Americans are shopping on the internet like never before," said US Attorney David L. Anderson.

“Hospitals, healthcare providers and everyday people are understandably anxious to obtain N95 masks, N99 filters and other PPE."

Anderson described the alleged actions of Stevenson, who is accused of fraudulently profiting from a health crisis that has killed nearly 60,000 people in the United States alone, as a "consumer's nightmare."

“The criminal element is always ready to prey on fear and uncertainty, and it is all too easy to lie over the internet. The complaint alleges a consumer’s nightmare of fake web pages and false promises,” said Anderson. 

If convicted, Stevenson faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, 5 years of probation, and a fine of $1m.

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