Tennessee Brothers Who Hoarded 17K Bottles of Hand Sanitizer Reach Agreement With State

The two Chattanooga, Tennessee, brothers who admitted to stockpiling more than 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and other medical materials to sell online amid the coronavirus pandemic have avoided a fine after reaching a settlement with the Tennessee state attorney general, reported The Tennessean Tuesday. Matthew and Noah Colvin initially were profiled by the The New York Times last month after admittedly taking a 1,300-mile road trip through Tennessee and Kentucky to buy and stockpile thousands of items becoming more scarce amid the public's concern over the coronavirus and sell them at an inflated price online.

On March 14, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced he would be launching a price gouging investigation into the brothers based on what they had admitted in the article. Tuesday, the attorney general's office announced in a press release that the Colvins had surrendered all of their supplies to a nonprofit in Tennessee, and had also agreed to distribute other items in Kentucky. Slatery said in a press release, "Disrupting necessary supplies during an unprecedented pandemic is a serious offense. It became clear during our investigation that the Colvins realized this, and their prompt cooperation and donation led to an outcome that actually benefited some consumers."

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The brothers were not charged a fine in the end, as the donated items are being considered restitution, but are now barred from selling emergency or medical supplies "grossly in excess" of the typical market price of those items, specifically in times of "abnormal economic disruption."

In the original Times article, Matt claimed he was simply fixing "inefficiencies in the marketplace," saying that he was helping the supply in less populated areas meet the demand of more populated areas. "I honestly feel like it’s a public service," he added. "I’m being paid for my public service." He added at the time that for the stockpile he found himself unable to sell, he would try to make a profit locally. "If I can make a slight profit, that’s fine," he said. "But I’m not looking to be in a situation where I make the front page of the news for being that guy who hoarded 20,000 bottles of sanitizer that I’m selling for 20 times what they cost me."