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Timothy L. O'Brien

Covid Aid Scams and Dodgy Deals Could Have Been Avoided

Lack of federal leadership turns contracting for supplies into the Wild West.

No one’s looking closely enough.

No one’s looking closely enough.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg


Almost every scam is a little bit funny, even when linked to the deadly serious coronavirus. Consider BuzzFeed’s latest installment in the genre:

The site reported on Thursday that Yaron Oren-Pines, an electrical engineer in Silicon Valley, managed to make millions of dollars selling ventilators he apparently never had and never could supply. Three days -- three days! – after he tweeted to President Donald Trump, “We can supply ICU Ventilators, invasive and noninvasive. Have someone call me URGENT,” New York State paid him $69.1 million for 1,450 ventilators. BuzzFeed noted that amounted to $47,656 for each ventilator – or at least three times the normal price of high-end ventilators.