Friday's headline in the New York Times: "He had never sold a ventilator. N.Y. gave him an $86-million deal."
The "he" is Yaron Oren-Pines of San Jose. His LinkedIn shows a background as an electrical engineer for various tech firms including Google.
"He's a high energy guy, he's really honest, I'm sure."
Thao Tran works with him at a networking company they co-founded and confirms Oren-Pines has no experience in the medical field.
"Did he ever have any experience with ventilators, did you ever talk about something like this?" ABC7 reporter Dan Noyes asked.
"No, we didn't, we haven't talked about that," Tran said.
On March 24, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced, "I need 30,000 ventilators."
The month of March was tense and chaotic. Cuomo scrambled to find ventilators for the coming surge of coronavirus patients.
"How can you have New Yorkers possibly dying because they can't get a ventilator?"
Three days later, President Trump tweeted, "General Motors must start making ventilators, now! Ford, get going on ventilators, fast!"
Oren-Pines 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.
Luis Ferre'-Sadurni with 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 shares tonight's byline in the Times. He says 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 which closed the deal, even after Oren-Pines made unusual demands.
"Anyone wishing to do business with him had to sign a contract within four hours of getting a quote, that the payment had to be paid up front, and that was non-negotiable."
But no ventilators materialized and Wells Fargo froze Oren-Pines' account.
New York canceled the order and demanded its money back.
They're arguing over the last $10 million from the state that Oren-Pines still has.
He has not returned ABC7's calls to his cell or San Jose home, but the Times cites an email Oren-Pines sent to New York officials last weekend.
"What has happened to me personally over the past few days is worse than death itself. I have done nothing wrong! All I wanted was to help New York State and in the process got thrown under a bus."
The I-Team also reached out to three members of Congress from the Bay Area, Jackie Speier, Zoe Lofgren and Eric Swalwell, but through staff, they declined to comment on this controversy.
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