Former Florida city official accused of stealing nearly 1,000 N-95 masks bonds out

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DORAL, Fla. (WFLA/CNN) – A former city official in Florida is accused of stealing nearly a thousand N-95 masks intended for frontline workers. Doral officials say the man was caught on camera committing the crime.

“It’s a disappointment across the board. Its a disappointment for every city employee, for every city resident I think,” Rey Valdes, a spokesman for the Doral Police Department.

Police say it all started in early April when the city received a shipment of N-95 masks and other protective gear but detectives say Michele Merchan decided to help himself, stealing $1,500 worth of supplies and it was all caught on camera.

“You see him taking the boxes. You see him opening the boxes, unpacking them, repacking them and putting them in his automobile, his city-issued automobile,” said Valdes.

Once officials realized there were hundreds of masks missing it didn’t take them long to connect the dots.

“No one is above the law,” said Valdes.

Merchan was arrested facing several felony charges and appeared in bond court Tuesday, hours later he bonded out but this is only the beginning of his legal trouble.

Investigators said two boxes of masks were found in the suspect’s apartment, but more than 900 remain unaccounted for.

“It’s bad enough that you commit a crime, but when you steal something, something that is in dire need, such as the N95 masks, something that is being used by medical personnel and first responders, and you deprive them of that, in effect, what you’re doing is jeopardizing their safety and their well-being,” said Valdes.

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