Black Market Seller Charges NJ Doctor 700% Markup on Coronavirus Medical Supplies

A New Jersey primary care physician turned to a black market seller when typical medical supply chains dried up

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Dr. Alexander Salerno is now a buyer on the black market.

The New Jersey primary care physician typically places his regular orders through a medical supplier to refill the supplies needed for his offices spread across Essex County. The current shortage triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a growing number of hospitals and other care facilities to turn to untraditional suppliers.

Dr. Salerno said he's already turned to paint stores and body shops to pickup substitutes for sterile drapes and hazmat suits. His staff has also started regularly sanitizing masks to slow the drain on supply.

But a drastic drop in resources pushed Dr. Salerno to turn to a new supplier. He texted a phone number and traveled to an abandoned warehouse to make the pickup. Inside the warehouse were pallets of N95 masks, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, and medical gowns -- not your typical black market purchases.

"We have to go out and we have to go literally to these black market brokers or black market pirates and we are paying like 400 - 800% markups to get the protective barriers so I can fulfill that promise of protecting our staff," Dr. Salerno said.

Dr. Salerno's two open medical offices have constructed outside tents to treat and test coronavirus patients.

Normally, Dr. Salerno says he would spend $2,500 for the type of shipment he purchased. Instead, he wired approximately $17,000 on the supplies he said the office needed. That's a 700% markup.

"I don't know how many more $17,000 weeks can do have because we're burning through equipment," he said.

Salerno says he sees up to 300 patients in triage tents setup outside his two offices still open in Newark and East Orange.

"If the gates don't open and if we don't get supplies from reputable folks like FEMA and our normal medical suppliers, I don't know how much more we can do it - because this is a marathon, it's not a sprint," he said.

News 4 has reached out to the New Jersey Attorney General's Office but did not immediately receive a comment on any possible investigation into black market sales.

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