A St. Paul man accused of selling N95 masks at unreasonably high prices has agreed to pay $6,800 and stop reselling the respirators as part of a court agreement announced Friday by Attorney General Keith Ellison.
Ellison alleged that Kevin Liu offered to sell or sold essential goods and services at “an unconscionably excessive price” despite an executive order from Gov. Tim Walz that banned price gouging on those items, according to an assurance of discontinuance filed in Ramsey County District Court.
The attorney general alleged that Liu offered to sell and sold more than 1,000 N95 masks, including some at a price of $24.17 per mask, when the respirators normally would carry a list price of $1.31 each. That’s a markup of roughly 1,774% over retail, according to the court filing.
Other masks were offered at markups ranging from 366% over retail, the filing states, to 1,011% over retail.
“People need to know that the Governor’s Executive Order banning price gouging applies to individuals as well as retailers,” Ellison said in a statement. “I’m pleased that this online reseller cooperated with my office’s investigation. The resulting settlement ends the face mask sales and ensures compensation for injured consumers.”
Liu could not be reached for comment. The court document said Liu alleged his prices reflected shipping and administrative fees, in addition to higher-than-normal acquisitions costs charged by retailers from whom he purchased masks. The agreement is neither an admission nor denial of liability by Liu.
N95 masks filter out at least 95% of very small particles, federal officials say, and are capable of filtering out all types of particles, including bacteria and viruses. Health care providers rely on the masks as personal protective equipment when treating COVID-19 patients, but the masks, also called respirators, have been in short supply.
Maplewood-based 3M makes N95 masks. The company in June said it had investigated 4,000 reports globally of fraud, counterfeiting and price gouging in connection with its respirators.