Thousands of Stolen N95 Respirators Recovered by Oregon Police

A man who allegedly stole and then tried to sell thousands of N95 masks on Craigslist has been taken into custody, police said on Sunday.

According to a statement from the Portland Police Bureau, officers were first made aware of the theft when The Rebuilding Center, a sustainability nonprofit reported that 20 to 25 cases of N95 masks had been stolen from their center on March 6.

The next day, staff at the center discovered an advertisement listing the masks on Craigslist that were being sold in the nearby town of Beaverton, Oregon. The staff scheduled to meet with the seller and then contacted the Beaverton Police Department who arrived at the meet and arrested the suspect.

Vladislav V. Drozdek, 22, of Beaverton, was arrested and charged with first degree theft.

Six cases of the N95 masks were recovered at the meetup. On Saturday, police followed up with an investigation and were able to locate an additional seven boxes stored inside a home. Officers recovered the boxes of masks and returned them to the victims, who then immediately donated them to local hospitals, who have been dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

Further arrests and charges are possible, police said.

"This was a good example of interagency teamwork and cooperation, along with some helpful detective work by the victim," said Assistant Chief of Operations Mike Frome. "This is even more significant during a time when these medical supplies are in such short supply."

Health care workers and other public health officials have reported critical shortages of personal protective equipment like N95 masks, which help protect them from contracting COVID-19. The respirators are able to block 95 percent of very small particles (0.3 microns) and can provide more protection that other types of masks.

To keep up to date on the latest news about the coronavirus and to understand what you need to stay safe and healthy, check out the Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction podcast from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Photo: Portland Police Bureau

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