Scottsdale man charged for fraudulent face mask claims amid pandemic
PHOENIX – A Scottsdale man was charged with wire fraud and money laundering in connection to an alleged scheme to defraud others by falsely claiming to be a distributor of respirator face masks, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.
Dale Hipes, 39, allegedly said he could procure 3M masks for the state of Texas during the coronavirus pandemic. He falsely claimed to be an authorized distributor of the masks and promised delivery within three days.
The victim wired Hipes $16.65 million to purchase nine million masks but he never followed through.
Instead, Hipes returned $12 million to the victim, ceased all communications and spent the leftover money.
“It’s truly reprehensible that someone would misrepresent themselves and promise to provide Personal Protective Equipment during a pandemic then take millions of the fraudulently obtained money and use it for their own personal gain,” Sean Kaul, Special Agent in charge of the FBI Phoenix Field Office, said in a press release on Thursday.
Authorities seized four bank accounts and a 2020 Kawasaki utility vehicle, all of which have been connected to the charged crimes.
U.S. Attorney Michael Bailey and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich have been allocating resources to a COVID-19 Fraud Task Force since the beginning stages of the pandemic in April.
According to the release, a conviction of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both while money laundering convictions could be 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.