Oregon Man Gets Jail Time For Selling Fake Masks During Covid-19 Pandemic

PORTLAND. Ore. — Almost 600,000 N95 masks made in China that were seized in an FBI raid on April 9, 2021, have led to the sentencing of a Portland man who imported  $2.5 million worth of counterfeit masks during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was sentenced to six months in prison on Monday.

Selling hundreds of thousands of fake masks to unwitting customers, federal prosecutors said that Jiang Yu, 70, also fabricated fake certificates of authentication for the masks he sold. The masks were critical barriers against the virus, especially in light of the vaccine skepticism which has seen soaring numbers of non-immunized kindergarten children In Oregon.


West Linn Man Prosecuted For Selling Fake Masks

The fraud unraveled when the FBI and Homeland Security Investigation agents raided his West Linn home with a search warrant and seized nearly 600,000 masks he had stored there in April 2021, according to a sentencing memo.

Yu’s defense later tested a sample of the masks which showed some particles were successfully filtered. Still, there was no testing on the durability or fit of the masks.

U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman found Yu lied about what he was selling to customers but took into account that the defendant had lived a crime-free life until the mask charges were laid. Mosman called Yu’s action aberrant behavior.

In December, Yu, who lives in West Linn, a suburb of Portland in Clackamas County- which experts at WalletHub found to be in the 87th percentile of the best cities to live,  pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods between May 2020 and June 2021. Yu agreed to pay $245,449 in restitution to six unnamed companies.

Involved in the import-export of air filtration products and LED lighting equipment before the FBI raid, Yu came to the United States to study trumpet at Oregon State University in the late 1980s after performing as a solo trumpeter for the People’s Liberation Army in China.

A former student of  Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music,  the director of bands from Oregon State University noticed Yu when playing at the International Music Festival in Budapest in 1987.

After being authorized to live and work in the U.S. as a permanent resident during the Tiananmen Square protests, Yu entered a master’s program at OSU and arrived on campus in 1988, where he stayed for two years, before transferring to Portland State University to complete his master’s degree.

Yu played the trumpet part-time for the Oregon Symphony Orchestra between 1989 and 1993 before becoming a licensed electrician working for companies selling Chinese air filtration systems and importing LED lighting equipment. He became a U.S. citizen in 2011.

Defense lawyer Wayne Mackeson said Yu worked with a man from the United States and a person in China and was the “middleman” in the conspiracy.


Portland Man Sentenced to Prison Over Counterfeit Masks

Handling the sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Rykken, urged a sentence of two and a half years but acknowledged that the national average for similar cases is a 10-month prison term. Assistant U.S. Attorney Quinn P. Harrington argued that “Mr. Yu’s conduct was selfish and financially motivated.”

The defense contended that Yu subjectively believed the masks were real N95 masks. While he did not fully think through and appreciate the overall seriousness of the conduct in which he was engaged, his actions don’t reflect who Defendant is as a person, having given much to the community through music.

Mackeson highlighted that Yu studied and worked hard, and has otherwise led an unassuming life. He sought probation with home detention or community service, or a prison term of no more than 10 months.

The judge said the message should be sent that you’ll go to jail for doing that sort of thing because there was a lot of fraud surrounding the pandemic. Despite the 6-month prison term, Yu remains out of custody and was ordered to start serving his sentence on August 8.

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