HOUSTON – The city of Houston spent more than a million dollars on counterfeit masks, according to court documents.
The court records said the city paid a company called Med-Tech Resource roughly $1.7 million for around 900,000 3M-N95 masks. The masks were intended for frontline employees.
After the masks were delivered, 3M and the city determined they were counterfeit, the documents said.
“If you don’t have the proper equipment, if you don’t trust the equipment that you have, it’s unacceptable,” said Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association.
The COVID-19 pandemic left many searching for face coverings.
A city employee grew suspicious after hearing many masks on the market were counterfeit. A police report included in the court documents said the masks in question were quarantined and never used.
Still, Lancton said thousands of fire department employees who worked during the pandemic were exposed to the virus, and safety equipment is important.
“We saw first hand that the brave men and women of the Houston Fire Department on the front lines did amazing work, and it’s our job to make sure they’re protected,” said Lancton.
Court records said federal authorities seized the funds used to pay for the masks and the city is now asking to get the money back.
KPRC 2 left a message with Med-Tech seeking a response, but we have not yet heard back.
Last month, the Associated Press reported the state of Maine is going through something similar with the same company.
A spokeswoman for Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city is not going to comment beyond what’s already in the public records.