U.S. Investigates Sale of MREs on eBay
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer
Uncle Sam has tried to feed millions of hurricane victims this year
with Meals-Ready-to-Eat, or MREs, only to find that many of them have
The government is looking into whether eBay sellers in Gulf Coast
states are trying to profit from military foodstuffs handed out for
free following hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
Representatives for eBay, the online auctioneer company, say it is
impossible to prove that any of the meals were meant for hurricane
victims. They note that MREs can be bought in camping stores and
Army-Navy surplus outlets.
But at least some of the MREs advertised on the Web site are being
sold from Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and other Gulf states, and
are individually packaged with a disclaimer that clearly notes:
"U.S. Government property - Commercial resale is unlawful."
"If it's true, that's pretty reprehensible," said Cheryl Guidry
Tyiska, deputy director of the National Organization of Victim
Assistance. "There are a lot of pretty hungry people down there who
could use the food for free."
One seller, identified as from "Louisiana Cajun Country," described
being hit "with the eye of Rita." Bidding had reached $50.99 for the
seller's unopened case of MREs by Saturday.
"It was very depressing to come back and see that Rita took half our
roof with her and left a lot of trees on the fence," the seller
wrote. "I am still in a state of shock and a daze. It has really been
a mess. I thank God for my solid gold eBay customers. Thanks for your
Bidding on other MREs, from Biloxi, Miss., to Pensacola, Fla., ranged
from 99 cents to over $100. One case, from Lake Arthur, La., was being
advertised as "real military issue" for $36.02. Its 12 individually
wrapped meals included beef ravioli, chicken with Thai sauce and a
veggie burger with barbecue sauce.
E-mails sent by The Associated Press to eBay's MRE sellers in Gulf
Coast states went unanswered.
The Homeland Security Department's inspector general has asked
investigators to examine the suspicious MREs on eBay, spokeswoman
Tamara Faulkner said. In the past, the Pentagon has complained about
MRE sales on eBay, Defense Logistics Agency spokeswoman Marcia Klein
said. The agency has not decided whether to pursue the current eBay
sales, though officials are considering all avenues, she said.
The Pentagon pays $86.98 for a case of MREs, or about $7.25 per meal,
Klein said. The Web site for a chain of Army-Navy stories in the
Washington area listed a case of 12 MREs for $96.
Told of the eBay sales, the acting director of the Federal Emergency
Management Agency, R. David Paulison, said he "will not tolerate any
type of fraud, and we will pursue it to the fullest extent." FEMA
distributed millions of MREs to hurricane victims over the past two
eBay spokesman Hani Durzy said the San Jose, Calif.-based company has
not received any complaints from government or law enforcement
officials about MRE sales in the wake of the recent storms.
Additionally, Durzy said, eBay has asked the Pentagon to cite the law
that would prohibits the sale of its MREs, but has not gotten an
"When we asked them to show us a law to show it is unlawful, and they
were unable to do so, we said they're legal as far as we're
concerned," Durzy said.
eBay does prohibit the selling of expired MREs that are not advertised
as a collector's item, Durzy said. Items that would violate the law if
sold through eBay are removed from the site, he said.
On the Net:
Federal Emergency Management Agency: http://www.fema.gov/
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
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