During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, N95 masks like the 3M Aura Particulate Respirator 9205+ were in high demand because they could filter out at least 95% of non-oily particles in the air. Photo illustration by Cindy Ord/Getty Images.
The university emergency management director who stole medical masks at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and flipped them on eBay has been sentenced to probation.
On Thursday, July 21, in Pittsburgh, Senior US District Judge Arthur J. Schwab gave Christopher D. Casamento four years of probation, to include home detention in his Ross residence with electronic monitoring for 180 days.
The 43-year-old ex-emergency management director at the University of Pittsburgh must also complete 200 hours of community service, pay a $4,000 fine, and provide $18,783.50 to the school for the supplies he stole and sold online.
“The sentence was thoughtful fair and appropriate,” Casamento’s criminal defense attorney, Paul J. Cambria Jr., said in an email to Coffee or Die Magazine.
Ex-University of Pittsburgh Emergency Management Director Christopher D. Casamento, 42, pleaded guilty Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, in federal court to transporting stolen property. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.
Casamento pleaded guilty on Feb. 9 to one count of interstate transport of stolen property and had faced up to 10 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine.
When he began stealing 13,615 3M Aura N95 respirator masks, surgical face masks, and other particulate respirator masks in early 2020, Casamento was making roughly $95,000 per year as the University of Pittsburgh’s emergency management and planning director.
Concerned about their ability to protect medical workers, police officers, professors, and students from the global pandemic, supervisors emailed Casamento on Feb. 5, 2020, to make sure he had enough personal protective equipment on hand.
Casamento responded, “We had some supplies ‘find new homes.’ But overall, the original inventory is rather intact.”
A few days later, he stacked another lie on the pile.
“Because of the recent Coronavirus outbreak, we recently took inventory of our pandemic supplies in the G2 vault of Sennott Square,” he wrote in an email. “Lol..…over the last 10 years or so, it appears a big chunk of our supplies ‘walked off.’ As we get ready to replace those supplies, is there any way we can commandeer the caged-off area in the vault, to secure the supplies?”
The University of Pittsburgh's police department employs roughly 100 sworn officers, including motorcycle, K-9, and Special Emergency Response Team units. They're assisted by 10 communications room personnel, 46 security guards, and four administrative staffers. Officers are shown here responding to campus unrest on Sept. 26, 2009. Getty Images photo by John Moore.
FBI agents quickly discovered that, not only had Casamento profited between $15,000 and $40,000 by gouging consumers on the masks, but he was also using his Pitt office and computer to sell the university's stolen supplies.
Pitt fired him on July 17, 2020.
Casamento now works at Whole Foods and is starting a home inspection business, according to his sentencing memorandum.
“This situation has dramatically changed my life,” Casamento said in a pre-sentencing report. “I think about my actions every day and deeply regret my actions. I have embarrassed not only myself but more importantly my family. I understand this is not a victimless crime. I hope that the full restitution that I have made can be the first step to make things right.”
Travelers make their way through Pittsburgh International Airport on May 7, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Getty Images photo by Jeff Swensen.
Federal prosecutors didn’t see it that way. They urged the judge to put him behind bars for at least six months, as the federal sentencing guidelines suggested.
“Casamento was well educated, well paid, and held a distinguished university position with attending benefits,” Assistant US Attorney Gregory C. Mellucci wrote in a memorandum to the court. "Now, he needs to face the consequence of his greed."
But Casamento’s legal team asked the judge for leniency, saying that, over the past two years, their client had reformed himself.
And the judge agreed.
Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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