13 People Working in 'Essential-Employee Settings' Charged in Fake COVID Vaccine Card Scam

Thirteen individuals in New York working in "essential-employee settings" were charged on Tuesday for allegedly purchasing fake COVID-19 vaccine cards.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced the charges against the 13 individuals, as well as two others that allegedly sold the fake COVID-19 vaccine cards.

According to a press release from the district attorney's office, 31-year-old Jasmine Clifford allegedly sold roughly "250 forged COVID-19 vaccination cards over Instagram."

Clifford also worked with 27-year-old Nadayza Barkley, who falsely entered at least 10 individuals into the New York State Immunization Information System ("NYSIIS") database, the press release said.

The district attorney's office said that starting in May 2021, Clifford, "a self-described entrepreneur with several online businesses," began advertising fake COVID-19 vaccine cards issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on her Instagram account.

COVID-19 Vaccine card
Fifteen individuals were charged in New York after they were allegedly involved in a fake COVID-19 vaccine card scam. Above, a healthcare worker fills out a COVID-19 vaccination card at a community healthcare event in Los Angeles, California, on August 11, 2021. Robyn Beck/Getty

"In a typical transaction, Clifford charged $200 for the falsified cards and accepted payment through CashApp or Zelle," the press release said. "For an additional $250 fee, co-conspirator Barkley, who works at a medical clinic in Patchogue, New York, would enter the individual's name into the NYSIIS database as having received COVID-19 vaccinations."

In addition to Clifford and Barkley, the district attorney's office said that 13 other individuals that worked in "public-facing or other essential-employee settings—including hospitals, medical and nursing schools, and nursing homes," allegedly purchased the fake COVID-19 vaccine cards from Clifford.

The district attorney determined that these individuals worked in these settings after investigating the Instagram messages they apparently sent to Clifford, "such as searches of New York State professional licensing databases."

The suspects have each been charged with one count of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree, while one of the 13 was also charged with offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree after paying to be entered in the state's vaccine database.

"We will continue to safeguard public health in New York with proactive investigations like these, but the stakes are too high to tackle fake vaccination cards with whack-a-mole prosecutions," District Attorney Vance said in a statement. "We need 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. This investigation is ongoing."

Clifford was charged with one count of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree; one count of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, a class E felony; and one count of conspiracy in the fifth degree, a class A misdemeanor.

Barkley was charged with one count of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, a class E felony, and one count of conspiracy in the fifth degree, a class A misdemeanor.

Newsweek reached out to the district attorney's office for further comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.