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By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
A Michigan man was recently charged with wire fraud in connection to an e-commerce scheme that preyed on four people seeking to purchase N95 masks for protection from the coronavirus.
Rodney L. Stevenson II, 24, of Muskegon, is accused of operating EM General, LLC and accepting funds for medical grade anti-viral N95 respirator masks but never delivering the product. Three victims residing in the San Francisco Bay area paid over $40 per mask, with one victim paying over $400.
“Hospitals, healthcare providers and everyday people are understandably anxious to obtain N95 masks, N99 filters and other PPE,” U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson said. “The criminal element is always ready to prey on fear and uncertainty, and it is all too easy to lie over the internet. While sheltering in place, Americans are shopping on the internet like never before. The complaint alleges a consumer’s nightmare of fake web pages and false promises.”
The masks were marketed as being a particulate-filtering face piece respirator that meets the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health N95 standard of air filtration. At least 95% of airborne particles are blocked from the masks that cover a person’s nose and mouth.
“The United States Postal Inspection Service has a long history of successfully investigating complex fraud cases,” San Francisco Division Inspector in Charge Rafael E. Nuñez said. “Anyone or any organization engaging in deceptive practices, especially if they are attempting to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable. The collaborative investigative work on this case conducted by Postal Inspectors, our law enforcement partners, and the United States Attorney’s Office illustrates our efforts to protect consumers.”
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 18, 2020, in the Western District of Michigan. If convicted, Stevenson faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, 5 years of probation, and a fine of $1,000,000.
“The FBI will pursue criminals who attempt to deceive and defraud consumers at the expense of public safety during this pandemic,” FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett said. “During this crisis, the FBI remains vigilant in deterring, detecting, and investigating wrongdoing and will rigorously pursue those individuals and groups attempting to victimize the American public.”
Michigan man charged with COVID 19-related wire fraud scheme
PRNewswire/ -- Honda delivered 10 Odyssey minivans to the City of Detroit that have been specially outfitted to transport people potentially infected with COVID-19, as well as healthcare workers. To protect the health of the driver from the potential for droplet infection during transportation, the Honda Odysseys have been retrofitted with a plastic barrier installed behind the front seating area, as well as modifications to the ventilation system to maintain an air pressure differential between the front and rear seating areas.
After seeing news reports about similar specially equipped vehicles modified by Honda in Japan, officials from the state of Michigan and the City of Detroit approached Honda in the U.S. in mid-April about the possibility of acquiring similar vehicles for use in transporting local residents and healthcare workers to COVID-19 testing. A team of volunteers at Honda's R&D center in Raymond, Ohio, including senior engineers and fabrication experts, quickly conceived and designed a method to modify the U.S. Odyssey at the Honda R&D Americas vehicle development center in Raymond, Ohio, where it was originally developed.
"As of today, the City of Detroit has tested over 20,000 residents and employees for COVID-19. Transportation is a critical component of ensuring every Detroiter has access to a test. We are very appreciative of Honda for choosing Detroit to deploy these newly modified vehicles," said Mayor Mike Duggan, City of Detroit.
The team of Honda engineers and experts in Ohio took the project from initial concept to completion in less than two weeks. All material fabrication and installation, and adjustments to the software for the Odyssey's ventilation system, was done entirely in-house.
"We're very proud of the efforts made by Honda engineers in Ohio to quickly devise a plan and modify a small fleet of Honda Odyssey minivans to support the people of Detroit in the face of this unprecedented global pandemic," said Rick Schostek, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. "This project is one of many initiatives being undertaken by Honda and our associates to support communities throughout the country during this very difficult time."
The Odyssey minivan modified in Japan is a smaller vehicle than the eight-seat U.S. version of the Honda Odyssey that was designed, developed and engineered in the U.S. and is made exclusively at a Honda plant in Lincoln, Alabama.
"Several members of our team have family members or friends working in the medical field to battle COVID-19 or know people who have family members battling COVID-19 infection and this became a very personal challenge to help potential victims and their families," said Mike Wiseman, senior director for Strategic and Materials Research of Honda R&D Americas, LLC, who led the project. "At Honda, we believe the purpose of technology is to help people and make their lives better and we were humbled to make this commitment to potentially help save lives."
Odyssey Modification Process:
Honda engineers in Ohio installed a sealed clear polycarbonate (plastic) panel between the front seat compartment and rear two-row seating area by removing the hand grips on the structural roof pillar (B-pillar), behind the first row, replacing it with new brackets to attach the clear panel. A second attachment bracket was fabricated and attached to the lower front seat belt anchor point for a total of three secure attachments on each side.
"When we developed our transportation service to the COVID-19 testing sites, we quickly realized that a lack of separation between the driver and passenger would be a limiting factor in our capacity to transport patients. This innovation from the Honda team will be critical to transporting passengers during this time," said Mark de la Vergne, Chief of Mobility Innovation for the City of Detroit.
In conjunction with the installation of the clear polycarbonate barrier, the Odyssey's ventilation system software was tuned to maintain a more positive pressure zone within the front compartment to establish a designed air pressure differential between the front and rear seating areas, greatly reducing the potential for droplet infection migration during transportation.
"Honda's speed in addressing this challenge, paired with Detroit's willingness to find and detail a use case for Honda, made this a model public-private partnership. The state's goal is to conduct 15,000 tests a day. This kind of ingenuity will help us get there faster," said Trevor Pawl, Senior Vice President at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and head of PlanetM, the state's mobility initiative.
Honda R&D engineers in Ohio designed the software that controls the ventilation system on the current-generation Odyssey. This core knowledge enabled engineers to tune the software to assure the air pressure differential is compliant with guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for negative pressure rooms in medical and research facilities. Specifically, the software is tuned to run the blower motor powering the fans in the front seating area faster than the fans for the rear seating area. The resulting air pressure differential creates a more negative pressure chamber in the rear seating area, with rear compartment air exhausted out the vents in the rear of the vehicle.
"As the conveners of the Detroit Mobility Coalition in partnership with the City for the past several years, MICHauto is committed to facilitating connections such as this to benefit our communities. This partnership with Honda in a time of crisis, is an ideal example of the importance of our mobility ecosystem to connect our local and state leadership and automotive and mobility industry together. MICHauto is pleased to play a role in helping to facilitate this information and technology transfer," said Glenn Stevens, Executive Director, MICHauto and Vice President, Automotive and Mobility Initiatives, Detroit Regional Chamber.
Detroit area residents to be transported to COVID 19 testing
sites in modified Odyssey Minivans
MDHHS issues emergency order related to handling of bodies
LANSING, MICH. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Robert Gordon recently issued an Emergency Order that shortens the time frame hospitals and funeral directors have to contact individuals with authority over disposition of the body of a deceased individual and the amount of time that individual has to make a decision regarding arrangements for the deceased.
Per MCL 333.2253, it has been determined COVID-19 has reached epidemic status in Michigan. As of Sunday, May 3, there were 43,754 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Michigan, with 4,049 deaths.
“The increase in deaths has placed a significant burden on the hospitals and funeral homes in our state,” said Gordon. “We need to alleviate this burden and ensure the safe, proper and respectful handling of Michiganders’ remains.”
The order provides hospitals and funeral directors 24 hours to attempt to contact persons with authority over disposition of the body of a deceased individual, including family members. If no such person can be located within that time, the duty falls to a county medical examiner.
If a person with authority over the disposition of a body is identified, they have 48 hours from the time of death to make a decision and complete arrangements regarding disposition. Failure to act within 48 hours of notification forfeits the right to make that decision.
The order also relaxes certain licensing provisions for funeral directors, allows funeral directors and medical examiners to authorize embalming, and allows for storage of bodies at a temporary storage facility provided by the Michigan Mortuary Response Team or at an alternate site procured by the license holder.
Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.