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The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California unsealed charges in a criminal complaint charging Rodney L. Stevenson II with wire fraud for his operation of an e-commerce website that allegedly scammed customers into paying for N95 masks that they never received.

Stevenson, 24, of Muskegon, Michigan, controlled EM General, a Michigan limited liability company created in September 2019.  EM General operated a website that purported to sell an available inventory of “Anti-Viral N95” respirator masks.  An N95 respirator mask is a particulate-filtering facepiece respirator that meets the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health N95 standard of air filtration.  N95 masks, which cover the user’s nose and mouth, are required to filter at least 95% of airborne particles.

The complaint alleges that EM General, through its website, falsely claimed to have N95 respirator masks “in stock” and available for sale and shipment during the shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Based on these and other representations, customers bought masks from the website, sometimes paying EM General more than $40 or more per mask.  

Stevenson is alleged to have taken several steps to fraudulently make EM General appear to be a legitimate company.  For example, Stevenson invented a fictional Chief Executive Officer, “Mike Thomas,” from whom fraudulent emails were sent, as well as several other fake officers or employees of the company.  

Stevenson also used stock photographs from the internet to create a page depicting this team of fake professional management staff.  After customers made their first purchase, the defendant offered additional masks to those customers at discounted prices.

The complaint describes how four victims paid for, but did not receive, N95-compliant masks.  Three of the four victims reside in the San Francisco Bay Area, including one hospital employee.  

Also described in the complaint are follow-up emails from EM General to customers in which false excuses about supply and shipping issues were made.  Three of the four customers in the complaint never received the promised products at all despite multiple representations that the masks had been shipped.  

The fourth customer paid over $400 on March 2, 2020, for N95 masks represented to be “in stock,” and, after raising several complaints, on March 27, 2020, received cheaply made fabric masks.  The masks, delivered in a white envelope with no return address, did not comply with the N95 standard that EM General purportedly sold.

Stevenson is charged with wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343.  A complaint merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.