Nurse and Marine Charged Over Fake Vaccination Card Scheme

The United States has charged a nurse and a Marine Corps reservist with selling hundreds of forged coronavirus vaccination cards. 

An indictment unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday alleges that 26-year-old Jia Liu of Queens, New York, and 27-year-old nurse Steven Rodriguez of Long Beach, were involved in a scheme to steal blank cards, populate them with false coronavirus immunization data and sell them to unvaccinated people. 

The defendants are further accused of destroying vials containing COVID-19 vaccination doses and entering false COVID-19 vaccination records into New York state databases, allowing unvaccinated individuals to receive a digital Excelsior Pass stating that they had been vaccinated.

In a statement released February 17, the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York said: "The defendants promoted their scheme through messages on encrypted messaging applications and on social media. 

"They referred to COVID-19 vaccination cards using code names, such as 'gift cards,' 'Cardi Bs,' 'Christmas cards' and 'Pokemon cards.'"  

Liu and Rodriguez are accused of distributing at least 300 stolen or false COVID-19 vaccination cards and creating more than 70 false entries in the state's immunization databases between March 2021 and February 2022.

According to court documents, Liu bought blank COVID-19 vaccination cards from Rodriguez and then forged and sold them to buyers and other co-conspirators. 

Liu is accused of instructing buyers to meet Rodriguez in person at the healthcare clinic in Hempstead, New York, where Rodriguez was employed, to purchase fraudulent cards.  

Rodriguez would allegedly make it appear as though he had administered the vaccine to the buyer but would destroy the vial of the vaccine. He would then allegedly give the buyer a forged COVID-19 vaccination card.

Both defendants were arrested on Thursday. Liu and Rodriguez are each charged with one count of conspiring to defraud the United States Department of Health and Human Services and one count of conspiring to commit forgery in connection with a scheme to distribute and sell false COVID-19 vaccination cards.

Liu, a Marine Corps reservist corporal, is further charged with one count of conspiring to defraud the United States Department of Defense by providing forged vaccination cards to United States Marine Corps reservists.

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