Criminal Defense

The Penalties for Distributing Fake Vaccine Cards

January 26, 2022 by Madison Ferguson in Criminal Defense  
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Criminal Possession of a Counterfeit Document

The increased spread of the delta variant all over the country has motivated numerous schools, businesses, and local government institutions to require vaccinations cards to gain access into these establishments.

Nonetheless, this action has motivated various individuals to try and skirt these restrictions by using fake vaccination cards. This, in turn, has created an opportunity for others to profit by distributing and selling fraudulent vaccination cards.

However, both the state and federal governments have strongly stated that the distribution and selling of false vaccinations cards can be a state or federal crime. But despite the threat of serious penalties, there has been an increase in the number of fraudulent Covid-19 vaccination cards seized by law enforcement.

A recent case of distributing fraudulent Covid-19 vaccination cards occurred in Owings Mills, Maryland, involving a 23-year-old man named Amar Salim Shabbaz. Shabbaz was arrested for the alleged distribution of fake Covid-19 vaccination cards. Based on the criminal complaint Shabbaz has been accused of buying more than 600 vaccination cards on numerous occasions through an online marketplace. Shabazz allegedly sold these false vaccine cards for $60 – $70 each through his social media accounts. Upon his arrest, Shabbaz was being charged with mail fraud and obstruction of justice for the distribution of false Covid-19 vaccination cards. If convicted Shabbaz could be sentenced with a maximum jail term of 20 years each for mail fraud and obstruction of justice.

Another similar case occurred in New Jersey where a 31-year-old woman named Jasmine Clifford was arrested for allegedly distributing phony Covid-19 vaccination cards through her now banned Instagram account @AntiVaxMomma. She reportedly sold the fraudulent cars for $200 each and payments were made either through CashApp or Zelle. For an additional $250, her purported co-conspirator Nadayza Barkeley who worked at a medical clinic in Patchogue would add you to the New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS) database. So far before their arrest, the women had reportedly falsely entered more than 10 people into the database. Upon their arrest, Clifford was charged with the Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, Offering a False Instrument for Filing and Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree. Clifford was charged with Offering a False Instrument for Filing and Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree.

Penalties for Distributing Fake Vaccine Cards

The charges these individuals are facing are just the tip of the iceberg of some of the penalties one could be facing if found distributing fake vaccination cards. Both the federal and state governments have iterated they intend to take stringent measures on any individual caught distributing phony vaccine cards.

Some of the charges one could face include:

Misrepresenting Government Seal

Most vaccines usually carry two seals. One, from the center for disease control and prevention (CDC). Another from the health and human services. Forging or wrongfully using any of these seals to help in producing fraudulent vaccination cards for distribution could land you in federal prison for up to 5 years and/or a maximum fine of $5,000.

Possession of Counterfeit Items

A person who buys or uses a phony vaccination card knowing it is fraudulent can still face similar penalties under this charge.

Wire Fraud

One can be charged with wire fraud in connection with distributing fake vaccine cards if they used an electronic mode of payment such as Venmo or CashApp to receive their payments after distributing the false vaccine card. Simply communicating with someone about sending you the money for the phony card can be enough to get you charged with wire fraud.

In most cases, people accused of committing wire can also be accused of mail fraud. Mail fraud in connection with the distribution of fraudulent cards involves using mail to deliver these illegal cards to your clients. Both crimes usually result in a 20-year jail term in federal prison and a maximum fine of $500,000 for each crime.

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