NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — More than a dozen people were charged Tuesday in a fake COVID-19 vaccination card conspiracy.
The phony cards were allegedly sold on social media, and the buyers are believed to have similar careers, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported.
About half of the 15 people charged with felonies were arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court.
It’s alleged that 31-year-old Jasmine Clifford from Lyndhurst, New Jersey sold 250 forged COVID-19 vaccination cards over Instagram and worked with 27-year-old Nadayza Barkley, who works at a medical clinic in Patchogue, to enter at least 10 people into the New York State Immunization Information System database.
Prosecutors said 13 people who bought the phony cards are also charged and believed to work in front-line and essential employee settings, like hospitals and nursing homes.
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According to court documents, beginning in May of this, Clifford advertised the fake vaccine cards through her Instagram account, @antivaxmomma, charging about $200. It’s alleged that for an extra $250 buyers could get their name entered into the state vaccine database.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. said, “Companies like Facebook to take action to prevent the fraud happening on their platforms. Making, selling, and purchasing forged vaccination cards are serious crimes with serious public safety consequences.”
“We prohibit anyone from buying or selling fake – or even genuine – COVID-19 vaccine cards. We removed Ms. Clifford’s account at the beginning of August for breaking our rules, and we will review any other accounts that might be doing the same thing,” a Facebook spokesperson told CBS2 in a statement. “We appreciate the DA’s work on this matter and will remove this content whenever we find it.”
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Meanwhile, the city said it’s training businesses to be on the lookout for fakes.
“We’re showing real templates so it’s clear how a business can manage this and make it work, and also how to know when there’s a fake vaccination card and what to do about it,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
“They are free weekly online trainings as well every Wednesday,” added Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Jonnel Doris.
They said posters will be up at businesses letting people know where the nearest vaccination sites are located.
“You can literally go to that vaccination site, get your first shot, get your card, come right back, go to that restaurant, go to that movie theater, go to that concert. That’s how flexible this rule is,” de Blasio said.
And if the threat of spending time behind bars doesn’t deter you, here’s a reminder: fake cards cost money, while the vaccine is free.