Anchorage man who allegedly bought thousands of N95 masks and sold at huge markup faces steep fines

N95 Respirator (Photo from U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

An Alaskan is facing thousands of dollars in fines for alleged price gouging on N95 masks, which are used as personal protective equipment against the coronavirus. 

According to a civil complaint filed on Wednesday, Juan Lyle Aune of Anchorage started purchasing packs of N-95 masks in late February as concern about the coronavirus in Alaska started to spread. He later sold them on eBay and Amazon at over four times their purchase price.

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It’s unclear exactly how many masks Aune purchased, but the civil complaint alleges that he purchased “thousands.” One incident described in the criminal complaint alleges that Aune purchased nearly 300 20-packs of N95 masks from a Lowe’s in Anchorage. In that incident, he even admitted to a store employee that he was “flipping” the masks and claimed he was making a $50 profit from each pack sold. On Thursday, a spokesperson for Lowe’s said in an email that the individual mentioned in the case was not, in fact, a Lowe’s associate but that the company is nonetheless working with authorities in an “ongoing investigation.”

The complaint says that the purchases caused a shortage of respirators in local stores. 

Aune allegedly sold over 600 masks between at prices as high as $90, over four times more than the price he paid at purchase. A bill recently passed by the legislature specifies that marking up prices by more than 10% is considered a violation of the Alaska Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act, though that bill hadn’t been signed by the governor at the time the complaint was filed. 

Assistant Attorney General John Haley, who is representing the state in the case, said that the Department of Law was alerted to the case by Amazon.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Aune did not have an attorney listed in the state’s court system. An eBay vendor that goes by the name listed in the complaint said that he hadn’t heard of the case filed against Aune, but the vendor’s history matched some of the details of the document. Within hours of the filing, the vendor had changed the eBay storefront name.

Aune faces fines from $1,000 to $25,000 for each time he advertised the masks online, which the complaint alleges happened at least three times. The Department of Law says these are the first charges related to coronavirus supplies. 

Alaska Public Media’s Liz Ruskin contributed to reporting

This story was updated to include a comment from Lowe‘s