Facing investigation, Tennessee brothers donate hand gel to church

Hand sanitizer has been in short supply amid the coronavirus outbreak in the United States

A pair of Tennessee brothers have donated 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer they were planning to sell online after a newspaper revealed their money-making scheme and the state authorities opened an investigation.

Matt Colvin, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and his brother Noah had made bulk purchases of hand gel, which is in short supply amid the coronavirus outbreak, with the intention of selling it on Amazon and eBay.

Both companies suspended their listings, however, after The New York Times published a story about the venture and the state attorney general said Sunday he had opened an investigation into potential "price gouging."

The Times said the brothers donated two-thirds of the supplies, which also included antibacterial wipes, to a local church on Sunday and the remaining one-third was taken by the Tennessee attorney general's office.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III said the brothers had been ordered to stop buying and selling medical goods while an investigation is underway.

"We will not tolerate price gouging in this time of exceptional need, and we will take aggressive action to stop it," Slatery said in a statement.

"Our team will review complaints closely and we are prepared to act to protect Tennesseans."

In an interview with the Times, Matt Colvin expressed remorse and said he and his family had received death threats.

"It was never my intention to keep necessary medical supplies out of the hands of people who needed them," he said. "That's not who I am as a person."

The coronavirus outbreak has infected at least 3,800 people in the United States and caused around 70 deaths.