On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that a company founded in March by a pair of Republican political operatives is under criminal investigation for entering into contracts with state and local governments to deliver medical supplies for the coronavirus pandemic — and then simply never delivering.
"The company, Blue Flame Medical, had boasted that it could quickly obtain coveted test kits, N95 masks and other personal protective equipment through a Chinese government-owned company with which it had partnered, according to documents obtained by The New York Times," wrote Ken Vogel. "The company was started by a pair of Republican political consultants, Mike Gula and John Thomas, who did not have much experience in the medical supply field. Mr. Gula’s fund-raising firm has been paid more than $36 million since 2008 by a range of top Republican politicians and political committees, while Mr. Thomas has served as a general consultant to a number of campaigns."
"The company’s pitch — which was accompanied by endorsements from a well-connected Chinese businessman who is an associate of Mr. Thomas’s — struck a chord with government agencies scrambling to obtain lifesaving supplies as the severity of the pandemic was becoming apparent," continued the report. "Orders came in from state governments, local police departments and airports in California, Florida and Maryland. But things have not gone as planned."
"The State of California quickly clawed back a $457 million payment for 100 million masks, as first reported by CalMatters. Other state and local agencies that paid Blue Flame say the supplies never arrived, or that orders were only partially filled," said the report. "The Justice Department is pursuing a criminal investigation into the company, according to people familiar with the investigation, which was first reported by The Washington Post."
Meanwhile, some of Blue Flame's clients are threatening to launch investigations of their own, including the police department of Melbourne, Florida.
“We have spent close to $5,000 on unfilled items, and we need to have it all refunded,” wrote Melbourne Commander Daniel Lynch in an email to the company. “At this point, if you do not refund the City of Melbourne this money, I will consider it theft/fraud, and move this to a different direction."