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Catch of the Week: Florida Man Charged with Stealing Over $12 Million in Funds Slated for PPE

Posted  August 27, 2021

DOJ continues to make good on its promise to root out fraud in pandemic relief.  This week, a Florida resident Brian Sperber was indicted for defrauding hospitals and medical institutions out of more than $12 million dollars by falsely promising to deliver personal protective equipment to those purchasers. Sperber and his co-conspirators, who ran medical supply and logistics companies, took orders for N95 masks and medical gloves, but failed to deliver the critical PPE after customers wired them funds.

According to the government, Sperber and a co-conspirator sent customers falsified invoices, emails, and other documents to make them believe that their PPE orders were on the way when in fact they were not. Sperber allegedly continued to steal from customers as the Covid pandemic worsened, even though he was aware hospital and medical institutions needed this lifesaving equipment that he failed to deliver.

Sperber allegedly used the stolen money to fund his lavish lifestyle, including the purchase of a multi-million-dollar waterfront mansion in Boca Raton in May, 2020.  In June, 2021, the South Florida Business Journal reported that the federal government had initiated a civil forfeiture proceeding that resulted in the sale, for $12 million, of the Boca Raton mansion based on allegations that the mansion was purchased with the proceeds from Sperber’s alleged fraudulent PPE scheme.

Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, added “Sperber allegedly took advantage of companies trying to direct personal protective equipment to those protecting themselves against a deadly virus…[p]rofiting from others’ hardships is something the FBI is determined to stop and will be a priority for our investigators during this pandemic.”

Sperber was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and four counts of money laundering.  Sperber will be arraigned at a later date in the Northern District of Georgia.

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine, “[a]s the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue, this office will aggressively pursue those individuals who steal funds intended to be used to purchase critical medical equipment.”

Fraudulent schemes by purported PPE brokers and middlemen during the COVID-19 pandemic have attracted press scrutiny, law enforcement warnings, and government enforcement.  DOJ is committed to busting Covid-19-related fraud, including bogus sales, price gouging, misuse of the Payroll Protection Program, and more. DOJ needs help from whistleblowers to root out fraud. If you have information about frauds related to COVID-19, or any other fraud on government programs, please contact us.

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Tagged in: Catch of the Week, COVID-19, Criminal Proceedings,