Auctioneer of Virus Masks Accused of Deception in Texas Lawsuit

A Houston auction house that offered to sell more than 750,000 medical face masks and other health-care equipment at inflated prices amid the coronavirus outbreak was accused of deceptive trade practices in a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Auctions Unlimited took bids on the face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes on its website starting March 17, with prices of some items surging, including $180 for a box of 16 masks, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday.

On Tuesday, auction site owner Tim Worstell told Bloomberg News he was commissioned by “large companies” to sell the items, but declined to identify them. Worstell estimated he netted as much as $40,000.

“My office will not tolerate anyone taking advantage of Texans in need and profiting from this health crisis,” Paxton said in a statement.

In an interview Thursday, Worstell said he didn’t violate the law and that the lawsuit will force him to keep the masks and other items in his warehouse until the dispute is settled.

“Basically, we do not believe we meet the terms of price gouging because everything started at one dollar,” he said. “We had no control how high people chose to bid. We did not ask for any price.”

Read More: Masks Auctioned for Huge Markup While Hospitals Run Out

— With assistance by Laurel Brubaker Calkins

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