A U.S. Marine Corps Reserve member sold and provided fake COVID-19 vaccine cards to fellow service members ‘to help them evade’ the Armed Forces’ vaccination mandate, federal officials said .
He is accused of working with a nurse to sell and distribute a total of at least 300 fake COVID-19 vaccine cards and making more than 70 false entries in vaccination databases, according to the US attorney’s office. of the Eastern District of New York. They were paid thousands of dollars for the sales, according to an indictment.
Marine Corps reservist Jia Liu and medic Steven Rodriguez have been charged in the alleged vaccination card fraud scheme, the bureau said in a Feb. 17 news release. The couple are charged with conspiracy to defraud the Department of Health and Human Services and conspiracy to commit forgery.
Liu is also charged with conspiracy to defraud the Department of Defense for giving the fake cards to other Marine Corps reservists, prosecutors said. Vaccination was mandatory for all service members from August 2021.
“As alleged … the defendants put the military and other communities at risk of contracting a virus that has already claimed nearly one million lives in this country,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement.
Liu “facilitated the introduction of unvaccinated people into a military framework that had been constructed to exclude unvaccinated people for troop safety,” the indictment states.
Prior to this case, Liu was charged separately in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, according to the Justice Department. Those charges against Liu included, among other things, disorderly conduct in a capitol building.
Liu’s attorney declined a request for comment from McClatchy News, which also contacted Rodriguez’s attorney and was awaiting comment.
The “scheme allegedly perpetrated by Liu and Rodriguez resulted in the circulation of more than 300 stolen or fake vaccination cards throughout the community, and the destruction of several doses of a vaccine intended to protect people against the most serious effects of the disease. virus,” Michael J. Driscoll, FBI deputy director in charge of New York, said in a statement.
Rodriguez is separately charged with destroying doses of vaccine “intended to be used to vaccinate a patient” for those who bought the fake cards from him and Liu to make it look like they were administered, according to prosecutors.
The alleged plot, promoted via social media and messaging apps, began around March 2021 through February 2022, the statement said.
“Genuine” vaccine cards were stolen by Rodriguez, who “abused his position as a medical professional during a global pandemic”, then forged by Liu who bought them from the nurse, according to court documents.
They are accused of offering their customers blank or completed vaccine cards that “falsely listed” a buyer’s information, according to the indictment.
“They referred to COVID-19 vaccination cards using codenames, such as ‘gift cards,’ ‘Cardi Bs,’ ‘Christmas cards,’ and ‘Pokémon cards,'” during their promotion, says the press release.
“If found guilty, the defendants face up to 10 years in prison,” he added.
Liu and Rodriguez appeared in court on Feb. 17, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Liu was released on $250,000 bond and placed in house arrest under GPS monitoring, spokesman John Marzulli told McClatchy News.
Rodriguez was released on $100,000 bail, Marzulli added.