EXCLUSIVE: How an American college footballer known as ‘Big Daddy’ almost conned Gladys Berejiklian’s government out of $430million by selling non-existent face masks during Australia’s hour of need
- Arael ‘Big Daddy’ Doolittle, 56, almost bamboozled NSW govt with fake masks
- Ex-college footballer has pleaded guilty to a wire fraud charge in a US court
- Houston man sought to sell 50million fake 3M-branded N95 masks to Australia
- Claimed NSW couldn’t inspect them because they were in several locations
- Now the self-proclaimed oil executive faces five years behind bars
A fraudster who almost bamboozled the NSW government out of $430million by offering a fake shipment of masks is a self-proclaimed Texan oil executive known as ‘Big Daddy’.
Former American college footballer Arael Doolittle, 56, has pleaded guilty to a wire fraud charge in a US court, after admitting trying to sell 50 million non-existent N95 masks to the state government last year.
In March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic forced countries into lockdown, Doolittle, from Houston, began hunting for buyers of large quantities of masks.
On about March 30, Doolittle found a potential buyer in Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s government.
The only problem was he didn’t have the masks, according to a plea agreement before the US Southern District Court for Texas.
Doolittle ‘falsely claimed that he possessed 50 million 3M N95 masks, and he offered to sell them to Australia for $5.50 per mask for a total purchase price … of $US275million,’ the court document said.
Former American college footballer Arael ‘Big Daddy’ Doolittle has admitted trying to sell the New South Wales government 50 million N95 face masks last year which didn’t exist. The sale was stopped when the US Secret Service intervened
The Houston father was hoping to be the recipient of more than $300million from the NSW government in exchange for a shipment of 50 million non-existent N95 masks last year
$5.50 is five times the standard purchase price of an N95 mask – speaking to the desperation of Australian governments for personal protective equipment at the time.
And on April 1, the NSW government provided Doolittle with a proof of funds letter, confirming more than $US317million (AUD$430million) had been transferred to a bank in the United States to cover the cost of the N95 masks, as well as fees.
The letter was sent to Doolittle’s co-accused Paschal Eleanya, whose email address was [email protected], the agreement said.
However, NSW officials demanded to inspect the masks before directly paying for them.
Doolittle’s agent falsely told the officials that the masks were in different locations all around the world and it would ‘cost a lot of money’ for the team to gather them together.
Government representatives were also shown a video of pallets of masks at a factory.
The video was filmed in 2006 and the numbers shown on the boxes meant they actually would have expired in 2011, court documents said.
The Covid pandemic set off an urgent rush for N95 masks, which were in short supply
The US Secret Service intervened and stopped the fraudulent transaction before it went ahead.
While awaiting trial Doolittle was conditionally released from prison but was returned to jail after breaching his conditions.
Court records claimed Doolittle made off for the coastal town of Galveston with a mystery woman named ‘Marue’ and his business partner.
There, he adopted the name ‘Jose Martinez’ and lived at a resort, when he was supposed to be at the suburban home he shared with his wife, the court heard.
Boxes of emergency N95 face masks are loaded onto a Qantas jet in Los Angeles during the 2020 bushfires (stock image). Months later, there was an even higher demand for the masks when the coronavirus pandemic hit Australian shores
The urgent attempt to secure supplies of N95 masks was an embarrassing near-miss for NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s government
Doolittle has pleaded guilty to a fraud offence over the fake mask sale and faces up to five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
Doolittle, who is six foot four, played for the University of Illinois’ Illini side in 1986 and 1987.
More recently, he described himself as an executive with an oil company named Nationwide Resource Group.
On his Facebook page, the former athlete’s friends described him as ‘big daddy’ and ‘big sexy’.
Daily Mail Australia sought comment from both the Commonwealth and NSW governments about the embarrassing near-miss.
Doolittle will be sentenced on October 25.