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Crime & Courts

Anchorage man who allegedly resold face masks online at inflated prices now faces steep fines

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An Anchorage man bought thousands of face masks and resold them at “outrageous, unconscionable and unfair prices” online, the Alaska Department of Law said Wednesday.

Juan Lyle Aune, 47, visited Anchorage stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s and Spenard Builders Supply in February and purchased mass quantities of N95 respirators, prosecutors said in a complaint filed in Anchorage Superior Court on Wednesday. He generally purchased the masks in a 20-pack for about $17-$23 per box, prosecutors said.

One day in late February, Aune asked to purchase all of the respirators in stock at Lowe’s — buying 293 boxes of 20 masks — and told an employee that he was “flipping” them and making about $50 in profit per box, according to the complaint.

Aune would sell the masks for up to $90 per pack on Amazon and eBay under the seller name “Spazzylabs.” The masks retailed for $16 on the site in previous months.

According to the charge, Aune’s stockpiling and reselling of the masks “during a time of increased necessity and demand for such respirators offends public policy, violates fundamental concepts of fairness and is unethical, immoral and unscrupulous.”

Aune’s actions contributed to a local shortage of respirators, which harmed local businesses and consumers, according to prosecutors. Hospitals and first-responders in Anchorage have asked the public to contribute masks or other personal protective equipment in recent weeks to account for a shortage of supplies. Others in the community have taken to sewing masks.

Aune is the first person to be prosecuted for price gouging supplies during the pandemic, a spokeswoman for the Department of Law said.

Aune was cited for violating the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act. The violation could result in a fine between $1,000 and $25,000 for each sale and each post or advertisement “in pursuit of an unfair sale.” The Department of Law also asked the court to order Aune to return any money or property obtained “through the unlawful acts and practices alleged in this complaint.”