EXCLUSIVE: Bay Area company criticized for lacking qualifications to source PPE receives nearly $50M in FEMA funding

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There are 128 companies in the Bay Area that have received more than $400 million in federal government contracts to fight the novel coronavirus, according to an ABC7 I-Team analysis. But, one company receiving the most is raising questions about FEMA's vetting process.

Medea Inc., a vodka wholesaler based in Pleasanton landed a nearly $50 million contract to source PPE. The company's qualifications have been criticized in several reports.

"That's actually not true," said Brandon Laidlaw, the company CEO said in response to the criticism. "We have a lot of experience procuring millions of dollars of technology, and the PPE side of it, it's easier."

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Laidlaw spoke exclusively to the ABC7 I-Team for the first time since taking heat for the contract.

"We do have experience," said Laidlaw. "We've been producing millions and millions of dollars out of China of a much more detailed product."

According to federal records, Medea Inc. was registered as a government contractor on April 16. Six days later, the company landed a nearly $50 million contract with FEMA.

"It really does raise some red flags and whether or not they're going to be able to deliver," said Scott Amey, an attorney with the Project on Government Oversight based in Washington D.C.

"These are some questions with some of these newly formed companies and whether or not they're going to be able to perform," said Amey.

Amey said it's risky for government agencies like FEMA to choose companies that don't have a proven track record.

FEMA has said publicly it has a "thorough vetting process." ABC7 reached out to the agency but was declined an interview.

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"There is some real risk that agency is taking on," said Amey.

Medea signed off on delivering roughly 26 million masks ranging from disposable masks to N95 masks. Laidlaw confirmed as of Wednesday night, 20 million masks have been delivered.

Six million more are required by the company's deadline on July 8.

"We are on track to complete it," he said.

According to federal documents, Medea's contract is eligible for up to nearly $100 million. But, Laidlaw said the deal was never about the money.

"We really just wanted to help provide masks when our country needed it," he said.

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