Two Whitestone grocers were arrested and charged with price gouging after they allegedly sold medical face masks at an inflated price, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.
Tae Kyong Kim, 49, of College Point, and Jung Soo Lee, 61, of Bayside, were both issued desk appearance tickets and ordered to appear in court Sept. 4 when they will be formally charged with a New York City Administrative Code violation. According to the charges, an undercover detective visited the Raspberry Farm grocery store at 150-15 14th Ave., in Whitestone Wednesday morning and noticed several displays of face masks. The price for a box of 2 KF94 masks was $10 when the masks are valued at $1 each.
A second detective visited the store that afternoon and saw 12 boxes of 10 KN95 masks listed for $45 each. The “buyer” purchased a single box for $45 from the cashier.
Police allegedly recovered 24 boxes containing 10 KN95 masks, 35 boxes containing 50 disposable face masks, 31 boxes containing four disposable masks, 153 single packs of KF94 face masks, and 67 dust-proof face masks.
Law enforcement executed a court-authorized search warrant Thursday at the grocery store. Police allegedly recovered invoices showing the manager paid $30 for the KN95 masks they were re-selling for $45 and they allegedly charged $39 for a box of 50 disposable masks which they allegedly purchased for $24.
The defendants allegedly told police that they had increased the price for everything in their store by 50 percent, according to the charges.
“Sadly, the outbreak of the coronavirus has inspired greed and manipulation,” Katz said. “We are still in the midst of a crisis and people are still dying every day from COVID-19. We are actively seeking out individuals and businesses that would take advantage of people’s real fears during this pandemic to line their own pockets. If you know of a business or individual inflating the price of needed personal protection equipment, please call my office at 718-286-6673.”
The Department of Consumer and Worker’s Protection’s Emergency Price Gouging Rule declares it an unconscionable trade practice to increase the price of essential goods and services during an imminent threat to public safety more than 10 percent above the price at which the same goods could have previously been purchased by consumers 30 to 60 days prior to the March 15 rule.
“The individuals charged in this case put profits over the health of their fellow New Yorkers by charging exorbitant fees for the face masks that could save people’s lives,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said. “These arrests should serve as a warning: the NYPD is vigilant in investigating those who prey on New Yorkers and attempt to financially benefit during the pandemic.”
The phone number listed for Raspberry Farm was out of service Friday and they could not be reached for comment.