(Reuters) - A New Jersey electrical contractor has been charged with stealing up to 1,600 respirator masks that were to be donated to a local hospital, the New Jersey attorney general's office said on Thursday.
Kevin Brady, an electrical contractor who had access to storage areas in the Prudential Financial facility in Iselin, stole cases of N95 respirator masks that Prudential intended to donate to a hospital, Attorney General Gurbir Grewel and the superintendent of New Jersey State Police, Colonel Patrick Callahan, said in a statement.
"Between March 27 and April 1, Brady allegedly stole seven to eight cases of N95 respirator masks, each case containing 200 masks," the statement said.
N95 masks, which are designed to filter 95% of airborne particles, are considered critical personal protective equipment for medical professionals treating patients with COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
New Jersey is among the U.S. states hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. New York and New Jersey together account for more than half of the 30,000-plus deaths from COVID-19 across the United States.
Brady was charged with third degree theft by unlawful taking and conspiracy to commit theft, the statement said. The charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Brady was charged under an ongoing investigation by state and local authorities based on a referral from the National Hoarding & Price-Gouging Task Force headed by the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, Craig Carpenito, the state attorney general's office said.
(Reporting by Rama Venkat and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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