Vladislav Drozdek is the Oregon man accused of stealing thousands of N95 respirator masks that were meant for medical professionals in the fight against the coronavirus.
According to the Portland Police Bureau, Drozdek stole at least two dozen cases from a non-profit hardware organization in Portland with the intent of selling the masks online. The company reported the theft on March 6, 2020. Officers with the Beaverton Police Department arrested Drozdek the following day.
Court records show Drozdek was released from custody on March 9 without needing to pay bond. The arraignment hearing was scheduled for April 23.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. The Victim Arranged a Meeting With Drozdek After Spotting the Stolen Masks For Sale On Craigslist & Contacted the Police
On March 6, 2020, workers at The Rebuilding Center at 3625 North Mississippi Avenue noticed that about 25 cases of N95 respirator masks were missing and called the police. The Rebuilding Center is a non-profit organization that salvages reusable building materials for sale at massive discounts and teaches classes on carpentry, plumbing and electrical.
Each case contained about 400 N95 masks. The 25 cases were valued at about $2,500, the Portland Police Bureau explained in a news release. The day after reporting the theft to police, a worker at The Rebuilding Center spotted the stolen masks for sale on Craigslist. She arranged a meet-up with the seller in Beaverton, Oregon, and alerted the police. Officers with the Beaverton Police Department were the ones who arrived at the meet-up and arrested Vladislav V. Drozdek on March 7 without incident.
Drozek has been charged with one felony count of “Theft in the First Degree by receiving.” He was booked into the Washington County Jail, but released two days later on his own recognizance. Public records with the Oregon Judicial Department do not list an attorney for Drozdek.
Heavy has reached out to the Beaverton Police for more information about the arrest and whether Drozdek had managed to sell any of the masks. This post will be updated once we hear back.
2. At Least 13 Of the Stolen Cases Were Recovered & Donated to Local Hospitals
Investigators recovered six of the stolen cases of N95 respirator masks after arresting Vladislav V. Drozdek on March 7. It was not immediately clear where the remaining boxes were located and, based on information from the Portland Police Bureau, Drozdek did not reveal where they were.
But police eventually found at least seven more of the stolen boxes. They were found inside a home in the 13900 block of Northeast Sacramento Street. According to a search of online records, the house was located about six miles away from Drozdek’s last known address.
The recovered N95 mask were returned to The Rebuilding Center. Leaders there immediately donated the supplies to local hospitals. The executive director, Jackie Kirouac-Fram, told CBS affiliate KOIN-TV that her organization has no more masks to give and urged anyone with unused supplies to donate them to medical professionals or to Washington County officials.
3. An N95 Respirator Is Tighter-Fitting & Recommended For Health Care Workers
Vladislav Drozdek has been accused of stealing medical supplies that were not meant for public use. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, surgical N95 respirators are meant for medical professionals in order to protect them from “high velocity splashes, sprays, or splatters of blood or body fluids.”
The N95 respirators have a much tighter fit than regular face masks and filter out at least 95 percent of particles in the air. By comparison, a face mask guards the wearer against “large droplets.” If the person wearing the face mask is sick, the mask protects others from the wearer’s “respiratory emissions.”
The CDC website includes the following language about N95 respirators and who can wear them:
“Not everyone is able to wear a respirator due to medical conditions that may be made worse when breathing through a respirator. Before using a respirator or getting fit-tested, workers must have a medical evaluation to make sure that they are able to wear a respirator safely.
Achieving an adequate seal to the face is essential. United States regulations require that workers undergo an annual fit test and conduct a user seal check each time the respirator is used. Workers must pass a fit test to confirm a proper seal before using a respirator in the workplace.
When properly fitted and worn, minimal leakage occurs around edges of the respirator when the user inhales. This means almost all of the air is directed through the filter media.”
4. Vladislav Drozdek Has a History of Traffic Violations In Washington County, Oregon
Vladislav Drozdek has been charged multiple times in Washington County for traffic violations dating back to 1996, according to the Oregon Judicial Department. His citations include instances of failing to wear a seat belt, failing to obey a traffic control device, and speeding. In a 1998 case, court records show Drozdek did not show up to a scheduled court hearing but ultimately paid a fine of just $150.
In 2007, Drozdek pleaded “not guilty” to charges of reckless driving and recklessly endangering another person. He was convicted and ordered to complete 40 hours of community service. He was also placed on probation for 18 months and his driver’s license was suspended.
Based on a search of online records, it is unclear whether Drozdek may have had a financial motive for selling the N95 respirator masks. There are no bankruptcy cases, evictions or liens against any properties he may own. Heavy has requested a copy of the arrest report, which may indicate whether Drozek is employed.
5. Officials Have Been Cracking Down On the Sale of Essential Items Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak
Sellers nationwide have attempted to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic since it began in the United States. For example, Tennessee man Matt Colvin and his brother Noah purchased 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer in order to sell them on Amazon. They sold 300 bottles for as much as $70 apiece before Amazon shut down their operation and the Tennessee Attorney General opened an investigation.
Leaders in several states are working to crack down on price gouging on essential items. For example, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is pushing for an anti-price gouging law after his office received reports of stores artificially inflating prices on items like toilet paper and cases of water, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey enacted an emergency regulation banning price gouging on public safety items, NBC Boston reported. And in Michigan, the AG’s office has taken legal action against retailers found to be inflating prices.