On Tuesday, August 31st, the district attorney for Manhattan, Cyrus Vance, Jr., announced that charges were filed against fifteen individuals who were allegedly involved in a fake COVID-19 vaccination card scheme. Of the fifteen individuals charged, one was Jasmine Clifford, a 31-year-old woman, who is accused of selling 250 fake vaccine cards via Instagram, a social media site owned by Facebook, while another woman, 27-year-old Nadayza Barkley, was accused of conspiring with Clifford by entering fraudulent information into the state’s immunization information system database. According to the Associated Press, Clifford allegedly sold the vaccination cards for $200 or more depending on whether the individual wanted the fake information entered into the state’s database by Barkley. The scheme unfolded after a police investigator became aware of the scam and then proceeded to order a fake vaccination card from Clifford. Clifford is facing three charges: second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, and one count of fifth degree conspiracy. Barkley, on the other hand, is facing two charges: offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree and a count of fifth degree conspiracy. The remaining thirteen individuals who are facing charges of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument are those who are believed to have purchased the fake COVID-19 vaccination cards from Clifford.
Government officials, both at the state and federal level, have made it blatantly clear that selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards is illegal and could result in state and federal charges. In July, Juli A. Mazi, a 41-year-old naturopathic physician from Northern California, was the first to be arrested and charged by federal prosecutors for selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards. According to the Department of Justice, Mazi was charged with wire fraud and making false statements related to health care matters. If convicted, she could face up to 20-years for wire fraud and 5-years for the false statement charge, in addition to fines and three-years of supervised release. But, despite the known consequences of buying or selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, individuals are still attempting to use them to bypass restrictions, such as travel, and thousands of counterfeit cards are still being shipped from overseas. In fact, customs officials in states such as Alaska and Tennessee have reported that they are seizing shipments containing counterfeit cards, sometimes on a daily basis. Although the cards that are seized by border patrol agents are said to be low quality and contain typos, they still closely resemble those provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Aside from encouraging individuals to get vaccinated to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, some congressmembers, such as Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, are calling for an education campaign “to make it clear to the American people that this is illegal, you could actually go to prison for buying one of these.”
Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.
- Writing: Explain whether tracking down counterfeiters is a difficult task for federal agencies, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
- Debate: According to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the federal government should implement an education campaign to make the American people aware of the consequences of buying a fake COVID-19 vaccination card. Do you believe that an education campaign would be effective at reducing the use of counterfeit vaccination cards?
- Poll: State and federal investigators should prioritize cases involving fake COVID-19 vaccination cards because the actions of these individuals are endangering public health. (Agree or Disagree).
- Short Answer: Discuss the consequences that the American people can face if they are caught buying or selling a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.
Cover Image: © iStockphoto.com/JJ Gouin