Deputies cite 8 people for price gouging amid COVID-19 state of emergency

[Deputies carried out an undercover operation that led to eight citations for price gouging amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
(San Diego County Sheriff’s Department )

Most of the citations took place in North County — in Escondido, Poway, San Marcos, Vista and Rainbow

MARCH 18, 2020 2:27 PM

San Diego County sheriff’s deputies on Tuesday cited eight people who sold overpriced household goods including baby wipes, medical gloves and toilet paper during an undercover operation that targeted price gouging amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials said deputies from the Fallbrook substation scoured websites and apps that allow face-to-face transactions, finding “a large number” of people selling hygiene products, cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment at exorbitant prices.

“These parties intended to maximize financial gain during the (state of) emergency, with merchandise being offered for sale upward of twenty times its regular retail price,” Sgt. Jeff Creighton said.

During a state of emergency, which Gov. Gavin Newsom declared March 4 in response to the coronavirus, state law prohibits an increase in prices for essential goods and services beyond 10 percent. Violations are misdemeanors subject to a fine of up to $10,000, up to a year in jail or both.

As part of Tuesday’s hours-long operation, deputies in plain clothes arranged to meet and purchase goods. After the transactions, deputies detained the sellers, then cited and released them.

Their ages range between 26 and 58. Most were cited in North County — in Escondido, Poway, San Marcos, Vista and Rainbow. One citation took place in San Diego and another near El Cajon.

Officials advised the public that scammers are trying to take advantage of misinformation and fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic in other ways, too. They said to be on the lookout for scams regarding testing or a coronavirus cure, as well as unsolicited requests for donations or medical advisories that include links and attachments.