OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - An Ocean Springs businessman is facing charges of defrauding the United States and other health care providers in a $1.8 million scheme related to acquiring and hoarding personal protective equipment as well as price-gouging health care providers, including the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Kenneth Bryan Ritchey, 57, was charged in an indictment in the Southern District of Mississippi with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit hoarding of designated scarce materials, and hoarding of designated scarce materials.
The indictment alleges that after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the U.S., Ritchey hoarded PPE by buying from all possible sources, including home improvement stores and online retailers.
According to the indictment, due to nationwide PPE shortages and concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19, Ritchey directed sales representatives to solicit health care providers, including the VA, to purchase PPE at inflated prices by misrepresenting sourcing and actual costs.
Ritchey allegedly sold PPE to health care providers desperate to acquire the materials, thus charging a higher markup. The indictment alleges that Ritchey sold N-95 masks to the VA and other health care providers for as much as $25 per mask, despite buying the masks at much lower prices.
The defendant made his initial appearance Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Myers of the Southern District of Mississippi. An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.