Genesee County sheriff, prosecutor warn against price gouging

GENESEE COUNTY — Officials want potential price gougers to know if they increase the cost of an item to more than 20 percent of what they paid during the COVID-19 virus crisis they will be charged with a misdemeanor.

Interim Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson and Prosecutor David Leyton held a press conference Monday where they warned the public against price gouging and announced the formation of a task force to deal with reports of such activity.

“I’m all into preparation, trust me, but I think there’s a balance between preparing yourself and hoarding in order to sell and take advantage of people who need what you have,” said Swanson. “Taking those prices and jacking them up for economic gain. We will not stand by if (the public sees) price gouging, in a store, an advertisement or social media.”

The task force is called TAG (Task Force Against Gouging), and Swanson called it a partnership with the prosecutor’s office. Residents who see or think they have been a victim of price gouging are urged to call 911 or the hotline at 810-257-3422 and lodge a complaint.

“The sheriff and his people are on patrol against price gougers,” said Leyton. “They’ve got the hotline and the ability to find these people, issue appearance tickets and then bring them to me so I can prosecute them – and prosecute them I will.”

Leyton said the task force will investigate all complaints and anyone found price gouging will be charged with a misdemeanor. They could receive up to 90 days in jail.

“Make no mistake – do not take advantage of people during a crisis,” said Swanson. “This is a time for us to help each other, to give to our community and to not take advantage of others.”

Leyton said residents are going to know when they’re being gouged and when they think someone has taken advantage of them, make the call and report the would-be gouger.

“We will prosecute,” he said. “They will pay the price.”

Furthermore, Swanson said once someone is arrested and charged with price gouging, that information is public record. Pictures of those charged with price gouging will be posted online and shared with the media to protect other people.