Neighbors raised questions about Silicon Valley engineer before he landed $86 million coronavirus contract

SILICON VALLEY, Calif. (KGO) -- A Silicon Valley engineer is being forced to return tens of millions of dollars, after he failed to provide 1,400 ventilators to the state of New York. His neighbors tell the ABC7 I-Team they saw warning signs on his social media, even before that deal became public.

Yaron Oren-Pines has no experience in the healthcare field, but he now claims he would have made good on the deal, if authorities gave him more time.

RELATED: Silicon Valley engineer tweeted to Trump promising ventilators to NY, then scored $86M contract; but the ventilators never came

Neighbors in the Almaden Valley area of San Jose responded very quickly and strongly to a post from Yaron Oren-Pines on Nextdoor in March: "Can anyone help me get in touch with California Department of Health? We have a stock of 3M 1860 N95 masks in quantities of 18 million."

Steve Pagan of Almaden Meadows told the I-Team, "It kinda screamed that he was trying to profiteer off of a desperate situation."

His neighbor, Leanne Hamilton, added, "I wasn't sure whether he actually had them and if he did have them, why on earth was he trying to ask us where to sell them."

Neighbor after neighbor criticized Oren-Pines, until he removed the post that same day. After that backlash on Nextdoor, the neighbors tell us they were shocked to see a story in the New York Times last week of Yaron Oren-Pines making an even bigger deal.

The headline read, "He had never sold a ventilator. N.Y. gave him an $86-million deal."

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Here's how it came about. March 24th, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged the federal government to help with ventilators for the coming surge of coronavirus patients.

"How can you have New Yorkers possibly dying because they can't get a ventilator?" asked Cuomo.

Three days later, President Trump tweeted, "General Motors must ... start making ventilators, now! Ford, get going on ventilators, fast!"

Yaron Oren-Pines, a Silicon Valley electrical engineer, tweeted back, "We can supply ICU ventilators, invasive and non-invasive. Have someone call me urgent."

Within days, the State of New York had wired Oren-Pines $69 million out of an $86 million contract.

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Luis Ferre'-Sadurni of The New York Times told the I-Team, "New York officials jumped on it, and they say that federal officials told them that he had been vetted."

Ferre'-Sadurni said a team of volunteers chosen by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, vetted Oren-Pines, and a recommendation went to officials in New York who closed the deal.

The San Jose neighbors were stunned.

Linda York of Almaden Meadows told us, "Yeah, we were able to vet him better than the Trump administration. We vetted him very quickly even."

The ventilators failed to materialize and Wells Fargo froze Oren-Pines account, so New York canceled the order and demanded the money back. They're still arguing over the last $10 million Oren-Pines has not returned.

The I-Team emailed his lawyer, called his cell phone, and knocked on Oren-Pines door today. No response.

The Times quotes an email Oren-Pines sent to officials in New York. He says this ordeal has been "worse than death itself" and that he has not done anything wrong.

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