Fired Employee Accused of Deleting Shipment Records, Delaying Delivery of PPE to Front Lines of Coronavirus Fight

This stock illustration taken on January 28, 2020, shows a collection of protective face masks. Christopher Dobbins, of Georgia, was named in a criminal complaint accusing him of improperly accessing the shipment systems at his former employer, leading to delayed shipments of PPE. MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty

An Atlanta-area man was arrested Thursday on suspicion of delaying shipments of critical personal protective equipment (PPE) to the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 as shortages of these supplies mounted.

Christopher Dobbins, 40, was named in a criminal complaint submitted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation accusing him of improperly accessing the shipment systems at his former employer and deleting records in late March.

In total, the company, Stradis Healthcare—which packages and distributes medical supplies such as gloves, masks and gowns—estimates that shipments of PPE were delayed by one to three days.

If formally charged with one count of the criminal statute, Dobbins, of Duluth, Georgia, could face up to 10 years in prison. He was released from government custody on an unsecured bond.

"Of course we are disappointed about a former employee who caused the company immeasurable internal harm and caused some temporary delays in our shipping system but our focus is completely consumed in working 24/7 to serve the medical community and the public during this critical time," Stradis CEO and co-founder Jeff Jacobs told Newsweek in a written statement.

"We initiated the investigation by the FBI and as we cooperate in the case, we trust the justice system will take it from here as this distraction is no longer in the way of our critical day-to-day role in getting vital supplies to our heroes in patient care, and saving lives in the process," Jacobs added.

In response to a request for comment, Dobbins' lawyer told Newsweek that he "looks forward to pleading not guilty to the charge and having his case move through the criminal justice system."

According to the criminal complaint, Dobbins began to create fake log-in information for Stradis' shipment portal after he was disciplined by the company in August 2019. In early March, Dobbins was fired, at which point his official access to the portal was terminated.

But a few weeks later, after receiving his last severance check, Dobbins logged into the shipment portal using the first fraudulent credentials and create more fictitious credentials, the FBI believes.

Using these second credentials, Dobbins, the company's former vice president of finance, stands accused of editing 115,581 records and deleting 2,371 more.

"This defendant allegedly disrupted the delivery of personal protective equipment in the middle of a global pandemic," Byung Pak, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said in a press release. "Scarce medical supplies should go to the healthcare workers and hospitals that need them during the pandemic. The Department of Justice is dedicated to moving quickly on cases like this to bring criminal opportunists to justice and protect the public during these challenging times."