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Homeland Security seizes unauthorized COVID-19 tests, masks from Lockport lab

More than 22,000 non-FDA approved masks and 1,000 test kits seized Friday as part of ongoing criminal investigation.

LOCKPORT, N.Y. — Special Agents from Homeland Security Investigations, along with the Justice Department and law enforcement from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Niagara County Sheriff's office seized thousands of non-FDA approved COVID-19 test kits and KN-95 masks Friday.

As part of an ongoing criminal investigation dubbed Operation Stolen Promise, the 22,000 masks and 1,000 test kits were taken from SunBeam Labs on Donner Road in Lockport.

HSI says the test kits and face masks were mislabeled and seized for wire fraud and in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

“Criminal groups that would seek to profit off of a global pandemic have no regard for the health of their potential customers,” said Kevin Kelly, special agent in charge of HSI Buffalo.

“HSI and our law enforcement partners are working around the clock to warn the public of the health and safety risks involved in buying and using these fraudulent and tampered products and to ensure these unsafe products are pulled from the marketplace.”

Operation Stolen Promise was launched in April to prevent criminal activity surrounding the global COVID-19 pandemic and to protect the American people.

SunBeam Labs issued a statement on Friday night:

“SunBeam Laboratories employs more than 80 people in Western New York. It is not aware of any conduct inconsistent with its commitment to ethical business and community support. Originally dedicated to testing hemp for farmers, SunBeam halted those operations when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and began manufacturing hand sanitizer and purchasing face masks and COVID-19 test kits.

"The company’s employees have been working around-the-clock for weeks on end to produce an essential product, and it was recently recognized for its charitable donations to law enforcement, First Responders, and others working on the front lines. No criminal charges have been filed against the company or any employee, nor have any allegations been presented to SunBeam at all. SunBeam will cooperate with any investigation and continue to serve its employees, customers, and community.”

Credit: homeland security

“The production and sale of unapproved masks and fake test kits not only harms legitimate manufacturers of such products, but even more egregiously, jeopardizes the health and safety of those who are duped into using them,” stated James P. Kennedy, Jr., United States Attorney for the Western District of New York.

“We have a zero tolerance policy for this dangerous type of fraud, and working with our partners in law enforcement, we will use every tool available to protect our already vulnerable populace.”

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