Prosecutors said Tuesday that a woman from New Jersey calling herself AntiVaxMomma sold fake COVID-19 vaccine cards for $200 each to several hundred jab dodgers in New York City, including those who work in nursing homes and hospitals.
A second fraudster would enter the bogus card buyer’s information into a New York state vaccination database. This feeds systems that verify vaccine status at locations such as sporting events and concerts.
Jasmine Clifford of Lyndhurst in New Jersey was arrested Tuesday for offering a fake instrument, criminal possession with a forged instrument, and conspiracy. According to authorities, she has sold approximately 250 fake vaccine cards over the past few months.
Clifford’s alleged conspirator, Nadayza barkley, of Bellport on Long Island, didn’t enter a plea and was arraigned Tuesday morning at Manhattan criminal court. He is charged with offering a false instrument, conspiracy, and other charges.
Prosecutors claim Barkley, who was working at a Patchogue clinic, entered at least 10 names in the state’s vaccine database. She also received payments from Clifford through CashApp and Zelle.
Online court records didn’t list Barkley or Clifford lawyers who could comment.
13 alleged card buyers were also charged. One man was accused of paying to be added in the database. Actual COVID-19 vaccinations are free of charge.
Cyrus Vance Jr., Manhattan District Attorney, called on Facebook and other tech companies, who own Instagram, to take action against vaccine card fraudsters. He stated that “the stakes were too high to deal with fake vaccination cards using whack-amole prosecutions.”
Facebook stated that anyone cannot buy or sell COVID-19 vaccine card cards. It also said that Clifford was removed from its account early August because he had broken its rules.
The company stated in writing that it would review other accounts doing the same thing. “We are grateful to the DA for his efforts in this matter and will remove any content we find.”
Prosecutors claim that Clifford, an online entrepreneur who self-described herself as an entrepreneur, began selling forged Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine cards via her AntiVaxMomma Instagram page in May.
An investigator from New York’s state police became aware of the fraud a few weeks later and contacted Clifford to obtain a fake card. He was then added to the state vaccination database.
According to court papers, the investigator stated that he was given a package containing a CDC COVID-19 vaccine card. It contained his name and birth date, as well as a screenshot from his cellphone showing that the information he had provided had been added to the state’s database.
Fake vaccine cards are a growing problem as more places ask for proof of vaccination in order to work, eat at restaurants, and engage in daily activities such as going to the gym or watching a movie. This mandate is already in place in New York City. Enforcement will begin Sept. 13.
All public school teachers and other staffers in the city are required to get their first vaccinate dose by Sept. 27, while the state has said it is requiring vaccines for health care workers. All city employees must be vaccinated and tested for the virus at least once a week.
Colleges and universities requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for students to attend in-person classes have raised concerns about the easy availability of fraudulent vaccine cards through online sellers.
In May, the owner of a Northern California bar was arrested after authorities say he sold made-to-order fake COVID-19 vaccination cards for $20 each.
In June, a naturopathic physician in Northern California was arrested on charges she sold fake COVID-19 treatments and vaccination cards.
After two tourists were arrested on suspicion of using fake COVID-19 vaccine cards to travel to Hawaii, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for federal law enforcement agencies and federal law enforcement agencies, to focus online sales of the fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates and launch a campaign stating that forging them could lead to federal prison.