Massachusetts today sued a Salem company and its owners - who include a North End resident, a Massachusetts lawyer and a man sentenced to nearly six years in prison for wire fraud - over the 1 million N95 face masks they told the state in the early days of the pandemic they could get shipped here from China, then mostly didn't.
In a suit filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the state Attorney General's office is seeking a minimum of $10 million from the Bedrock Group, LLC - $3.3 million for the original payment for the 990,400 face masks the company didn't deliver, times three, less the $100,000 the company did repay the state.
In its complaint, the Attorney General's office said that as the state scrambled to find PPE for front-line medical and emergency workers after Gov. Baker declared a state of emergency on March 10, 2020, On April 2, the state says, Jonathan Roth, a Rhode Island resident licensed to practice law in Massachusetts, contacted the state Operational Services Department and said his company, Bedrock, had access to 1 million Chinese face masks and could ship them to Massachusetts - with payment in advance. The next day, the department authorized an emergency purchase order and transferred the money to Bedrock.
Bedrock promised delivery by April 23.
On May 27, the state got 99,600 masks. And then it got no more - despite Bedrock responding to repeated queries from the state by saying the rest of the masks were on the way, the complaint states.
On June 11, the complaint continues, the state canceled the emergency purchase order and demanded its money back for the 90% of the order it never got.
Bedrock kept stalling the state, saying it would pay, then didn't, unless you count the $750,000 check the company sent in January, 2021 that bounced, the suit alleges.
Finally, the Attorney General's office got involved and the company signed an agreement in June, 2021, for a repayment schedule for $3.46 million plus a $250,00 penalty.
Bedrock made one payment of $100,000, then stopped paying, even as Roth allegedly kept lying about wire transfers he swore were in progress but weren't, the state charges.
The state says one of the company's owners is Howard Sperling, who once ran an LED lighting company in Boston, is not listed on corporate records filed with the Secretary of State because he was sentenced to nearly six years in federal prison in 2010 for his role in a fraud scheme involving the construction of a new prison. His son Enrique, also a California resident, is listed as a company official in state records.
Also listed in state records as an owner, and named in the suit, is Anthony Damore of the North End.