Man charged for $317M sale of virus masks that didn’t exist

State News

In this illustration dated February 26, 2020, protective N-95 face masks lie on a table at an office in Washington, DC. (Photo by EVA HAMBACH/AFP via Getty Images)

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man has been charged in federal court with trying to swindle a foreign government out of $317 million in exchange for a huge shipment of masks to protect against the coronavirus that didn’t really exist.

Documents filed Thursday by federal prosecutors in U.S. District Court say Paul Penn faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors say Penn and at least two partners negotiated a deal in March and April to to sell 50 million N95 respirator masks to an unnamed foreign government.

Prosecutors said in court records the sellers never had the masks, yet they persuaded the foreign government to wire $317 million to a bank account.

The U.S. Secret Service intervened before the sale was finalized.

Court records did not list an attorney for Penn.

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