HOUSTON — A Houston man is going to prison after trying to scam the Australian government out of $317 million by selling them N95 masks he didn't have.
Arael Doolittle, 56, was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison Wednesday after pleading guilty in July.
Federal investigators say Doolittle offered the government 50 million masks, in a get-rich-quick scheme early in the pandemic. Authorities got involved before the government handed over the money.
Doolittle had already been sentenced to 54 months in prison in a separate case for conspiracy to commit wire fraud involving nearly $2 million.
In that case, the feds say he scammed victims who invested in a petroleum trading company out of a total of $1,935,613.95.
Instead of investing their money as promised, Doolittle used it to pay for unrelated business and personal expenses.
U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes ordered Doolittle to serve both sentences consecutively, resulting in a total of 108 months in prison. Judge Hughes noted even though there was no actual financial loss in this case, there are still costs associated with fraud cases like this.
Doolittle will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The Secret Service conducted the investigation of the fraudulent N95 masks. Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin R. Martin prosecuted the case. The FBI investigated the petroleum investment scheme.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form.