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Reality Star Hunted Down Masks, Found a 'Jungle'

Bethenny Frankel went on an incredible journey to save lives
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2020 12:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – Amid the coronavirus pandemic, reality star Bethenny Frankel has helped donate more than two million masks to groups across the country through her BStrong disaster relief charity. That's the upside of a case that shows how "crises breed corruption," Jack Nicas writes at the New York Times. New York officials had asked Frankel to find much-needed masks in early March, after she contacted the governor's office about a publicist's offer of access to 500 million medical masks. She was put in touch with Jake Uhlenkott, the former field director for Rick Santorum's 2012 presidential campaign, who informed her the masks were on another continent. But he said he knew of 5 million masks in Canada and 10 million more in New York. Frankel's team responded with an $82.5 million purchase order, dependent on inspection.

Uhlenkott failed to provide an address, though he eventually provided footage of boxes in a warehouse. The deal was ended soon after, with Uhlenkott putting Frankel in touch with his source, Ralph Frengel, a salesman for a company called Astoria Enterprises. New York City soon agreed to buy 10 million masks for $66.5 million, if they passed inspection. But officials at Astoria complained that inspections were a bother. It turns out Astoria, registered in the money-laundering haven of Cyprus and run by two ex-convicts, is involved with Internet gambling and foreign-currency speculation. "Were [the masks] real? Weren't they? Who knows? It's an absolute jungle out there," Frankel told BuzzFeed in April. But Courtney Enloe, 3M's head of litigation, believes it was a typical fraud. Even "I have been solicited," she tells the Times. Click for the full article. (Read more Bethenny Frankel stories.)

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