Federal officials have moved to shutter a site operated by three residents of Vietnam that they say marketed items that became scarce in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic at excessively inflated prices.
Filing in the federal court in Tampa, agents obtained a temporary restraining order to close the websites as it continues its investigation. Per investigators, the three defendants ran dozens of websites that offered for sale supplies including hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, which became difficult to purchase as the nature of the pandemic became widely known among the American public.
Purchasers emerged from all fifty states to the site, seeking to buy the goods that the defendants allegedly had on offer. However, they say the purchasers never received the goods they bought. Using hundreds of email accounts set up for the purpose, the defendants allegedly used those accounts to cover their tracks as they received money from the victims via an online processor.
In addition to creating email accounts, the defendants allegedly listed other, uninvolved businesses as contacts, causing those businesses to receive hundreds of complaints for non-delivered items.
In order to stop the damage while the investigation continued, U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell issued an emergency ex parte temporary restraining order, obliging the site’s registrars to immediately disable the websites. In addition to the investigation and restraining order from United States authorities, law enforcement in Vietnam is also conducting an investigation and are expected to apprehend the site’s operators presently. The defendants are expected to face federal wire fraud charges in relation to the websites.