A Santa Monica day spa owner is facing up to a year in prison for hoarding and price-gouging critical COVID-19 supplies, the United States Attorney’s Office Central District of California announced Tuesday.
Niki Schwarz, 55, who owns Tikkun Holistic Spa, accumulated N95 respirators and resold the scarce masks at inflated prices – sometimes nearly 1,100% over the regular price, the Attorney’s Office said.
Schwarz has been charged with one count of hoarding and price gouging in a criminal information filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
In a plea agreement filed the same day, Schwarz agreed to plead guilty to the misdemeanor offense, officials announced in a news release.
In the agreement, Schwarz admitted that she obtained the masks for the purpose of reselling them at above-market rates.
From February until the end of June, Schwarz bought nearly 20,000 N95 respirators listed at 86 cents to $1.27 apiece by 3M and Alpha Pro, and resold them at $15 each, prosecutors said.
In March, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had established anti-hoarding measures for various “scarce” materials, including N95 respirator masks, “due to an overwhelming need of health care providers dealing with COVID-19 patients to use personal protective equipment,” according to the Attorney’s Office.
Schwarz continued to sell the masks at inflated prices, even after an associate warned her on March 1 that the sales were illegal and price gouging was punishable by up to a year in federal prison, officials said.
Schwarz is scheduled to appear in United States District Court, likely in early November, authorities said.