After you get your COVID-19 vaccine, you can get freebies including free doughnuts, beer and more.
California officials say a bar owner who sold undercover agents fake COVID-19 vaccine cards is now facing charges for multiple crimes.
The state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control on Wednesday said agents purchased the fraudulent cards multiple times in April at the Old Corner Saloon in San Joaquin County, located about 35 miles southeast of Sacramento.
Todd Anderson faces charges of felony identity theft and forging government documents, as well as a misdemeanor for falsifying medical records, according to an statement from San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Elisa Bubak emailed to USA TODAY.
The cards sold for $20, Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control spokesperson John Carr confirmed in an emailed statement to USA TODAY. It’s the first time the department has investigated fraudulent COVID-19 vaccine cards and could mark the first such case in the nation.
The low-tech cards are increasingly being required to travel or gain access to some public events. People who get a COVID-19 vaccine are given the CDC vaccination card, which says what COVID-19 vaccine they received, the date they received it and where it was administered. Often people fill in their own personal information on the card.
Officials have expressed concern that the cards are ripe for fraud, and a bipartisan coalition of 44 attorneys general in April urged tech companies to keep their platforms from being used to sell fake cards.
May 4: Vaccine distribution has been a big target for the Biden administration from the beginning
“People who buy fake cards can have their own information added to the card or add it in themselves, so it appears they have been vaccinated when they have not. These deceptive cards threaten the health of our communities, slow progress in getting people protected from the virus, and violate many state laws,” a release says.
In late March, the FBI said it is a crime to buy or make a fake version of the cards. Because the card uses a government seal, it’s can also be a crime to use a fake vaccine card to misrepresent yourself.
COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at keeping vaccinated people safe from the virus that has killed nearly 600,000 Americans, according to U.S. health officials. However, millions of Americans are hesitant to get vaccinated. Widespread conspiracy theories and misinformation have worsened the issue.
Scams have been an unfortunate bi-product of the pandemic. Amid this spring’s vaccine rollout, federal agencies warned against fraudulent vaccination schemes attempting to scam people out of money. And allegations that individuals misused Paycheck Protection Program funds have resulted in numerous federal charges.
Recent scams include “investments” in phony COVID-19 cures and charging people in advance for nonexistent home tests, fake protective gear or even overpriced toilet paper that never arrives. Other fraudsters offer “help” finding a new job or quickly getting federal stimulus checks, if people provide bank account and Social Security numbers or pay upfront fees.
The California case was investigated by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control because the alleged crime occurred at a business licensed by the department, Carr said.
A disciplinary action will also be filed against the Old Corner Saloon, ABC officials said, which can include a suspension or revocation of a business’ ABC license.
Carr says a criminal complaint is also being sought against another bar employee in connection with the case.
Contributing: Cassie Dickman, The (Stockton, Calif.) Record; Amy Huschka, Detroit Free Press; The Associated Press
Last SlideNext Slide
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/05/05/fake-covid-19-vaccine-cards-bust-charges-arrest-california/4962488001/