2 accused in schemes to sell fake COVID-19 vaccine cards
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Federal investigators indicted two Detroit subway residents on Wednesday as part of schemes to sell fake COVID-19 vaccine cards.
Bethann Kierczak, a 37-year-old registered nurse from Southgate, allegedly stole vaccination cards from John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit starting in May and sold them for between $ 100 and $ 200 apiece, mostly using the Facebook app Messenger, according to court documents filed in United States District Court in Detroit.
In another case, Rapheal Jarrell Smiley, 32, of Detroit, is accused of importing fake COVID-19 vaccine registration cards from China and selling them using his Facebook and Instagram accounts.
The cases come as employers, entertainment venues, colleges and other venues are increasingly demanding that people be fully immunized against the coronavirus.
“Whether or not an individual chooses to be vaccinated, we urge everyone to avoid using programs like these to evade vaccination requirements,” Acting US Attorney Saima Mohsin said in a statement. “Importing these cards is a crime. Selling these cards is a crime. We will continue to investigate these crimes and prosecute them accordingly. “
Kierczak is accused not only of taking the authentic vaccination cards issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the hospital, but also of providing the lot numbers of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine so that the cards appear legitimate when they have been sold.
She is accused of using Facebook Messenger to communicate with a confidential source who shared her messages online with federal investigators and consented to record phone and in-person conversations.
Federal prosecutors said Kierczak told the source in June that she had already sold a dozen stolen vaccine cards for $ 100 each, and gave the person who organized the sale a bribe of $ 200.
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In taped conversations, Kierczak then allegedly arranged to sell five more blank cards and a list of vaccine lot numbers to the government informant for $ 200 apiece, offering the informant a $ 300 bribe. .
She said she planned to use the money she earned from the sale of the vaccination cards to make a down payment on a child’s orthodontic treatment.
“We hope that these cases will deter others who might be tempted to obtain or use fictitious or stolen vaccination cards,” said Special Agent in Charge Gregg Hirstein of the Inspector General’s office. Virginie in a press release. “Since the issue of public health is so important the VA Office of the Inspector General will continue to devote resources to these cases whenever and wherever they arise.
In Smiley’s case, U.S. customs and border patrol officers at a FedEx facility at Memphis airport examined a package that arrived in early August from China. It was addressed to Smiley and contained 52 fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards.
He was the signatory of another Chinese manufacturer’s second packet delivery of fake vaccination cards on Aug. 22, according to federal prosecutors.
The cards bore an unauthorized copy of the CDC seal.
On August 30, Smiley reportedly posted to Facebook using the screen name “Detroit’s Own Rapheal Smiley” urging people to “Hit Me Up” with announcements about COVID-19 vaccine requirements in New York bars and for students and staff at Wayne State University.
He also posted an image of one of the fake vaccine cards to an Instagram account with the screen name “ralphie_imagined”, saying: “GOING FAST PEW LEFT”.
Smiley is charged with fraud involving departmental or agency seals, identity document fraud and trafficking in counterfeit products.
Kierczak is charged with theft of government property and theft or embezzlement of funds related to a health care benefit program.
“At a time when Americans anxiously want to get back to a normal lifestyle, these counterfeit vaccine cards are undermining our confidence in COVID-19 vaccines,” said Vance Callender, special agent in charge of Homeland Security field offices. Investigations in Michigan and Ohio.
Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.
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