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65,000 Fake N95 Masks Worth $400K Seized At O’Hare Airport

Federal agents noticed the masks within had an "unfamiliar chemical smell" and the packaging had grammatical errors.

N95 masks, like that pictured here, are used by health care workers and others. But thousands of counterfeit ones were found Monday at O'Hare Airport.
Flickr/Michael Swan
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CHICAGO — More than 65,000 counterfeit N95 masks worth $401,000 were found Monday at O’Hare Airport.

Customs and Border Protection officers seized 136 boxes of the masks as they were arriving from Colombia, according to a news release from the agency. The officers noticed the masks within had an “unfamiliar chemical smell” and the packaging had grammatical errors, according to the news release.

The error-riden packaging tried to make it look like like the counterfeit masks were from 3M, a company that makes personal protective equipment like N95 masks.

Had the masks been real, they would have been worth $401,000 based on the high demand for such items during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Customs sand Border Protection. All the masks were being sent to Virginia.

Legitimate masks and other personal protective equipment are “critical” for health care workers, according to Customs and Border Patrol. But “criminal enterprises” have sold counterfeit and unsafe personal protective equipment — like the masks seized Monday — during the pandemic.

“These counterfeit masks are extremely dangerous and provide a false sense of security to American consumers,” Hans Leiterman, assistant area port director for Chicago, said in the news release. “Unfortunately, there is no shortage of bad actors out there trying to take advantage of consumers during a global pandemic.”

3M shares information online on how to identify fake masks and other equipment.

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