A Portland company headed by a man facing a five-count criminal indictment has delivered thousands of medical masks as promised to public safety and hospital clients in Massachusetts.

Noble Partners LLC, which has been doing business as Noble Medical Supply since March 16, has been taking orders for large quantities of COVID-19 tests, personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and N95 respirators, the masks coveted by medical workers. There is a national shortage of these products, with Maine authorities scrambling to secure supplies.

Over the weekend Noble sent three workers to a New Jersey distribution warehouse to collect 20,000 N95s and surgical masks imported from overseas.

Led by Noble’s sales representative, former Maine legislator Diane Russell of Portland, they traveled in a rented cargo van. Russell posted photographs of the loaded van in the warehouse on her Facebook page late Saturday night before departing on her return trip to New England.

“I just want to get masks out to people that need them, and the private sector is stepping up because the government is just way too underprepared for this,” Russell said Monday. “It isn’t their fault – nobody was expecting this – but we should have been more prepared a month ago.” Russell said she is self-quarantining at home because of her trip to New Jersey.

Sunday morning Russell and her colleagues reached Worcester and called Massachusetts state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, a friend of hers who had helped connect Noble with first responders and hospitals in his Concord-area district. Eldridge said they met at a parking lot in Acton where Eldridge folded down the seats of his 2005 Pontiac Vibe and loaded 20 cases of masks so he could deliver them to Lowell General Hospital. Acton town manager John Mangiaratti arrived to collect 1,800 masks ordered for his fire, ambulance and police personnel.

“They were absolutely exhausted, having driven through the night and trying to figure out how to process all the orders,” Eldridge said Monday. “I’m just grateful to Noble, because firefighters, front-line health care workers are desperate to get these masks, and as a legislator I was really struggling as to how to connect them and was really happy to see the supplies.”

The episode shows the broken state of supply chains for critical medical protective gear, with hospitals, firefighters and rescue services turning to entrepreneurial upstarts willing to drive into the nation’s biggest pandemic hot zone to retrieve shipments and hand them off to customers.

“First responders have to be on call 24 hours a day and respond to calls in households and such, and we need as much personal protection equipment as possible,” Mangiaratti said Monday. “We tried to make several orders from suppliers that weren’t able to filled, and this one appears to have worked out for us.”

“We’d rather have paid less for these supplies, but given the circumstances we had to get the masks as soon as possible,” he added.

Noble’s price list offers 3M brand N95s for $7.40 each. Before the coronavirus pandemic decimated supplies, the masks sold for around $1.

Eldridge shared an email chain from an official at another Noble customer that received masks Sunday. Like many other desperate organizations, Care Dimensions, a hospice provider in Danvers, learned of Noble from a letter the senator had sent to constituents. A company official said after ordering March 23 that Noble’s “prices are high, but we are willing to pay market in order to get supplies into our clinicians’ hands.”

Noble is new to the medical supply business. Its website – where a “COVID-19” price list offers N95s, cases of PCR COVID-19 tests, hand sanitizer, and other products – came online March 16, less than 48 hours after Russell agreed to join the entity as head of government relations.

The company’s founder and CEO, Sean C. Grady, faces a five-count criminal grand jury indictment in Cumberland County Superior Court on charges of securities fraud, theft by deception and selling securities without a license. The indictment alleges Grady defrauded two investment clients, in one case by falsely representing that the funds would be invested in Noble Partners, and that the individual would be made chief technology officer of the company. He is scheduled to appear in court April 22, but that date will likely be postponed because of the pandemic.

Grady has also been permanently barred from being granted securities licenses and registration privileges in New Hampshire after he failed to respond to a November 2018 cease-and-desist order connected with one of the alleged frauds. Jeff Spills, deputy director of that state’s Bureau of Securities Regulation, said Grady still has not paid $238,471 in fines and restitution imposed by the state in its summary administrative judgment against him, part of which was to compensate the alleged victim, an elderly woman from Charlestown, New Hampshire.

Grady acknowledged the charges in interviews last week but declined to comment on them. He declined an interview request Monday.

He said last week that the company had taken about 70 orders as of Wednesday for a total of 500,000 to 600,000 N95s and 1 million to 1.5 million other masks. He said at the time that much of this was en route to the company’s facilities in Portland and Waltham, Massachusetts, and would be arriving this week.

Russell said the weekend shipment contained about 20,000 N95s and three-ply masks and so represented only a small proportion of the expected supply. She said additional shipments of masks and of rapid COVID-19 test kits were expected in the coming days but that global supply chains were a mess.

Last week, Grady and his partners said they are able to secure their supplies of masks, tests and other sought after gear because of hard work, scrappy tenacity and relationships with international manufacturers through their work on cannabis products. They have declined to say exactly where they get their supplies, instead describing networks of agents, contractors and employees located in multiple states, countries, and continents. Grady said they have a sales force of 40 and a support staff of 10 to 15.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.