NEWARK, N.J. – A Thailand national was indicted today for defrauding a New Jersey company in its purchase of COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) intended for combating the COVID-19 virus, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
The defendant, known only by the alias “Dang Chanchai,” is charged with nine counts of wire fraud for defrauding the victim company of approximately $1.5 million.
According to the indictment:
From at least March 2020 through May 2020, Chanchai knowingly and intentionally devised a scheme to defraud the victim company by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, making false representations about his ability to provide 3M Company (3M) N95 respirator and surgical masks through an entity Chanchai identified as UTE Group Company Limited (UTE).
Chanchai falsely represented himself and UTE as a distributor of 3M N95 masks. On March 17, 2020, Chanchai sent the victim company a contract that falsely represented that UTE could and would supply 10 million N95 masks. The victim company agreed to purchase from Chanchai and UTE approximately 1 million 3M N95 masks for ultimate delivery to health care providers in Europe.
From April 20, 2020, through April 30, 2020, Chanchai sent the victim company fake documents purporting to be from 3M, including a fake purchase order from 3M showing the order by UTE of the masks purchased by victim company. The fake documents also included false representations about the status of the production of the masks, as well as requests for payments to satisfy the order. Based on the fake 3M documents, the company ordered 300,000 additional masks. Chanchai provided the company with two more fake 3M documents, confirming the new order and falsely representing that the new order would be ready for pick-up on May 13, 2020.
Based on Chanchai’s misrepresentations, the victim company wired payments totaling $1,494,306 to UTE. Chanchai and UTE did not provide a single 3M N95 mask to the company and ceased communicating with the company after receiving the final payment under the agreement.
The wire fraud counts each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greater.
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr., with the investigation leading to the indictment.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Blake Coppotelli of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit.
Attorney General William P. Barr created the COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force, led by U.S. Attorney Carpenito, who is coordinating efforts with the Antitrust Division and U.S. Attorneys across the country wherever illegal activity involving protective personal equipment occurs. The Secretary of Health and Human Services has issued a Notice designating categories of health and medical supplies that must not be hoarded or sold for exorbitant prices.
Please report COVID-19 fraud, hoarding or price-gouging to the National Center for Disaster Fraud’s National Hotline at (866) 720-5721, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.