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Feds: Former Pitt official stole over 13K masks, sold online

The University of Pittsburgh’s former director of emergency management stole more than 13,600 face masks meant for school employees and students and sold them online in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a federal indictment announced Wednesday.

Christopher D. Casamento, 42, of Pittsburgh, stole N95 respirators, surgical masks and particulate respirator masks between Feb. 28 and March 22 last year, selling them on his eBay vendor page, “steel-city-motor-toys,” at “significant price mark ups,” the grand jury’s indictment said.

Shipping to buyers outside Pennsylvania, Casamento made $18,783.50 from the sales of personal protective equipment, the indictment said.

“At the start of the pandemic, when supplies of PPE were low and nationwide demand was intense, Mr. Casamento used his position of trust and access to critical PPE to enrich himself at the expense of Pitt students and faculty,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman.

Casamento was expected to receive a summons on a charge of interstate transportation of stolen property. A message was left at his number seeking comment. Messages were also left for his attorneys.

The two-page indictment does not say how the thefts were discovered, but state and federal law enforcement officials approached the university in early July about an investigation into “misappropriation of the university’s personal protective equipment supplies,” said Pitt spokesperson Kevin Zwick.

Pitt began its own review and determined that Casamento, whose duties included distributing personal protective equipment, had misappropriated the supplies, the university said. Casamento admitted it and was fired on July 17, Zwick said.

He had been with Pitt since 2007.

Pitt said it had adequate stockpiles of PPE and that its distribution of masks was unaffected by the theft. Pitt said it is seeking restitution from its former emergency management chief.

Casamento “had an obligation to make sure there was enough PPE to keep students and staff at the University of Pittsburgh safe,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman. “Instead, he chose to line his pockets.”

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