LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The United States Attorney’s office for the Northern District of California announced today indictments of Michigan man Rodney L. Stevenson II for wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering.
Stevenson was indicted for “his operation of an e-commerce site that claimed to have N95 masks for sale during the current COVID-19 epidemic,” announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Rafael E. Nuñez, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair.
According to the indictment, Stevenson operated EM General, a Michigan LLC created in September 2019, which purported to sell N95 masks with N99 filters.
At the beginning of the pandemic in February 2020, EM General advertised that it had N95 masks “in stock” and available for shipping.
Also according to the indictment, to bolster the legitimacy of EM General, Stevenson created a professional-looking website that included the names, backstories, and stock photographs of a group of fake EM General executives. It also falsely described how long the company had been in business, its sales volume, and its reputation. Stevenson also used fictitious names in emails to customers.
The indictment alleges that around 25,000 sales, the majority of which were N95 masks, were never delivered to customers. On February alone there were $900,000 in these sales.
The indictment also alleges that when almost none of the masks were delivered, customers asked for refunds and that Stevenson communicated with fake Gmail accounts refusing refunds, saying that the masks would “ship soon.”
The indictment says that for the small number of customers that did receive masks, the masks were not genuine N95 or N99 masks, meaning they did not filter out 95-99% of matter in the air.
Stevenson was charged by criminal complaint with one count of wire fraud on April 22, 2020. He is currently scheduled for arraignment on the indictment on January 15, 2021, before Alex Tse, U.S. Magistrate Judge.
The case is being prosecuted by the Special Prosecutions Section the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.