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Eight San Diego County residents arrested, accused of price-gouging during emergency

Posted at 1:12 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 18:41:30-04

(KGTV) – Eight San Diego County residents were arrested on suspicion of price-gouging after sheriff’s officials said they were allegedly charging exorbitant prices for numerous products that have been scarce amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department officials said deputies from the Fallbrook substation took part in an operation “targeting persons involved in online price-gouging activity.”

After monitoring several sales websites and apps, deputies “identified a large number of persons selling hygiene products, cleaning supplies/solutions, and personal protective equipment at exorbitant prices. These parties intended to maximize financial gain during the emergency with merchandise being offered for sale upward of twenty times its regular retail price.”

Deputies went undercover and arranged to meet the sellers. Once transactions were completed, the sellers were “arrested in violation of section 396(a) of the California Penal Code.”

Per California law, excessive and unjustified increases in prices for essential consumer goods and services during a declared emergency is prohibited. “A violation of this section is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not exceeding one year, or by a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

Officials noted the eight people arrested during the operation were cited and released.

Sheriff’s officials are warning the public:

During this pandemic, scammers are trying to take advantage of the misinformation and fear surrounding the public health crisis. Be aware of the COVID-19 scams circulating across the country.

-- Coronavirus cure? Not so fast. – there are currently no products known to treat or cure coronavirus
-- Door to door scammers offering fake decontamination or coronavirus testing services
-- Scammers urging people to invest in new stocks related to the disease
-- Deceptive online ads and malicious email campaigns
-- Unsolicited medical advisories with links or attachments
-- Phone calls or emails asking for donations, your social security number, banking information or credit card number