Tenn. brothers who stashed 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer investigated for price gouging

HIXSON, Tenn. (WRCB/CNN/AP) - Thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and packs of antibacterial wipes and medical masks have been donated after a failed attempt by two Tennessee brothers to resell them for profit.

Matt and Noah Colvin allegedly hoped to profit on demand for hand sanitizer caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their supply was donated to a Tennessee church and also sent to Kentucky. (Source: WRCB/CNN)

Matt and Noah Colvin, of Hixson, Tennessee, were allegedly hoping to profit on demand for hand sanitizer caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the first death from the virus in the United States, the two went state-to-state and bought out sanitizers at stores.

Over the next few days, as his brother bought more sanitizer, Matt Colvin listed 300 bottles on Amazon. Every bottle sold, with prices between $8 and $70 each, The New York Times reports.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery sent the Colvins a cease-and-desist letter Saturday. By that time, Amazon had already pulled their listings, leaving the brothers with at least 17,700 bottles of sanitizer, according to the Times.

“We will not tolerate price gouging in this time of exceptional need, and we will take aggressive action to stop it,” said Slatery in a statement.

Local news outlets report boxes were taken Sunday from Matt Colvin’s home and a storage unit. The recovered supplies were donated to a nearby church and also sent to Kentucky, where the brothers bought some of the stock.

“I just want to make clear that donating the sanitizers does not mean they are off the hook legally. If evidence establishes they engaged in price gouging, we will seek appropriate penalties,” said Samantha Fisher of the Tennessee Attorney General’s office.

In his second interview with WRCB, Matt Colvin apologized for the purchases. He had initially refused to apologize, saying he had not anticipated a shortage of sanitizer, nor did he think his business was taking advantage of people during a state of emergency.

He said he and his family have received death threats after the story caused a public outcry on social media.

It is unclear what charges the Colvin brothers may face.

Slatery is asking the public to report those who engage in price gouging during the crisis. State laws make it unlawful for individuals to charge unreasonable prices for essential goods.

The attorney general’s office can stop any confirmed price gouging and seek refunds for affected consumers.

Copyright 2020 WRCB via CNN and Associated Press. All rights reserved. Gray Media Group, Inc., contributed to this report.