According to an investigative report from Buzzfeed News, an engineer that received a $69.1 million contract from the state of New York after replying to tweets from President Donald Trump never provided the ventilators.
Yaron Oren-Pines, an electrical engineer in Silicon Valley who specializes in mobile phone technology, received a $69.1 million payment from New York after tweeting, “We can supply ICU Ventilators, invasive and noninvasive. Have someone call me URGENT.” in response to a tweet the president issued on March 27 calling for Ford and General Motors to develop more ventilators.
The amount Oren-Pines received is equivalent to $47,656 per ventilator, which Buzzfeed News points out is “at least triple the standard retail price of high-end models.”
None of the ventilators have been produced, said a state official who spoke to the outlet, adding that the state entered the contract with Oren-Pines because the White House coronavirus task force recommended him.
“The guy was recommended to us by the White House coronavirus task force because they were doing business with him, as well,” the official said. “I think everyone was genuinely trying to help each other out and get supplies.”
New York signed a contract with Oren-Pines three days after he replied to Trump’s tweet.
Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, said the severity of the coronavirus pandemic has forced states to turn to vendors who may be untested or unqualified.
“We had no choice but to overturn every rock to find ventilators and other needed equipment,” he said. “States were forced to fend for themselves to purchase lifesaving supplies to combat a global pandemic and with all modeling showing a more severe spread of this virus with more hospitalizations and more fatalities.”
New York state is currently evaluating other contracts and has since been able to meet most of its needs.
Oren-Pines said “neither me nor my company is providing any comment on this” in a statement to Buzzfeed News and could not be reached for further comment afterward.
Katie Miller, a spokesperson for Vice President Mike Pence, said in a statement that “The White House Coronavirus Task Force was never informed of this contract and was not involved in it at all.”
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.