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Arizona man sentenced for selling fake N95 masks early in pandemic

An Arizona man is facing probation and fines for distributing fake N95 masks to a medical center in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Counterfeit N95 masks are considered dangerous because they might not provide effective protection against airborne diseases.

In a press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona said Mark Forrest Cohn of Chandler imported fake N95 masks from China in the fall of 2020 using labels and containers that falsely represented the contents of the shipment. 

Cohn sold more than 20,000 of the fakes to a third-party vendor that supplied a Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minnesota. The vendor did not know the masks were counterfeit. Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized the masks before they were used by any frontline medical workers.

According to the press release, Cohn pleaded guilty to one felony count of entry of goods by means of false statements. He will serve a year of probation and will pay restitution, including $8,028 in unpaid taxes and tariffs to Customs and Border Protection.

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent. She has produced work for NPR, New England Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio, PRI's The World, Washington Post, Reuters and more.She has a master’s degree in radio journalism from the USC Annenberg School of Journalism.She lives in central Phoenix with her husband, two daughters, and ill-behaved cat and dog. Her side-passions include photography, crosswords and hot sauce.