- Dec 11, 2018
On March 27, as emergency rooms in New York and across the country began filling with coronavirus patients struggling to breathe, President Donald Trump posted on Twitter to urge Ford and General Motors to “START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!”
One of the thousands of replies that the tweet attracted struck an equally urgent tone: “We can supply ICU Ventilators, invasive and noninvasive. Have someone call me URGENT.”
Its author was Yaron Oren-Pines, an electrical engineer in Silicon Valley. A specialist in mobile phone technology, he currently has just 75 followers on Twitter and no apparent experience in government contracting or medical devices.
But three days later, New York state paid Oren-Pines $69.1 million. The payment was for 1,450 ventilators — at an astonishing $47,656 per ventilator, at least triple the standard retail price of high-end models.
Not a single ventilator ever arrived.
A state official, speaking on background because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the terms of the deal, said New York entered into the contract with Oren-Pines at the direct recommendation of the White House coronavirus task force.
Nearly a month later, New York has terminated the contract, and the state is now trying to recover all of the money it paid the Silicon Valley electrical engineer. Officials refused to say how much the state had been able to claw back. “We are in discussions on a few remaining issues,” said Heather Groll, a spokesperson for the New York Office of General Services, part of the interagency effort to help New York get supplies.
Reached by telephone, Oren-Pines said “neither me nor my company is providing any comment on this,” and then hung up. He did not respond to subsequent text messages.
After One Tweet To President Trump, This Man Got $69 Million From New York For Ventilators
The Silicon Valley engineer, who had no background in medical supplies but was recommended by the White House, never delivered the ventilators.