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'Pandemic Inc.' author says during COVID, fraudsters took advantage, turned a profit

Claudio Papapietro/Simon & Schuster

Editor's note: This conversation originally aired April 26, 2022.

At the onset of the pandemic, medical supplies from face masks to respirators were in short supply. In March 2020, the World Health Organization estimated that “industry must increase manufacturing by 40%” to satisfy need across the globe.

To meet that demand in the U.S., the Trump administration spared no expense, sometimes without due diligence. Within two months of the pandemic, the federal government doled out over$1billion to companies with no history as government contractors.

Some of those contracts proved to be rife with fraud. One man, for example, won a $34.5 million deal and didn’t provide a single mask. Another company was given $10 million to produce test tubes that turned out to be mini soda bottles.

Reporter and author J. David McSwane joins us to discuss how a handful of profiteers took advantage of a dark moment to line their pockets.


J. David McSwane, reporter for ProPublica and author of "Pandemic, Inc.: Chasing the Capitalists and Thieves Who Got Rich While We Got Sick"

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Jesse Steinmetz is Producer of Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Before joining WFAE in 2019, he was an intern at WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut and hosted a show at Eastern Connecticut State University.