A New Jersey woman using the Instagram handle @AntiVaxMomma was charged in Manhattan on Tuesday with conspiring to sell hundreds of fake coronavirus vaccination cards on the social media platform.
The woman, Jasmine Clifford, 31, was charged in Manhattan criminal court for selling about 250 fake cards via Instagram. Prosecutors said she worked with another woman, 27-year-old Nadayza Barkley, who worked at a medical clinic in Patchogue, NY, to trick at least 10 people into a database of injections strain of New York. Ms. Barkley was also charged in the conspiracy.
A total of 15 people have been charged under the scheme, including 13 who bought the cards – some of whom work in hospitals and nursing homes – and each has been charged with a felony.
Mrs Clifford is expected to be charged with two felony counts and one misdemeanor, and Ms Barkley is expected to be charged with one felony and one misdemeanor. Their attorneys could not be immediately reached for comment.
Starting in May, prosecutors said, Clifford, who describes herself online as an entrepreneur and runs multiple businesses, began promoting fake vaccination cards through her account. his Instagram.
Prosecutors said she charged $200 for the fake cards. For another $250, Ms. Barkley will enter a customer’s name into New York’s official immunization database, allowing that person to obtain the state’s Excelsior Pass, a digital certificate of immunization.
Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, issued a statement calling on Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, to crack down on fraud.
“We will continue to protect public health in New York with proactive investigations like these, but the stakes are too high to settle fake immunization cards with prosecutions,” Mr. “Making, selling and buying fake immunization cards is a serious crime with serious public safety consequences.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One popular TikTok user, @Tizzyent, highlighted Ms. Clifford’s plans in a viral video this month. A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office said the video did not lead to charges against Clifford and others, and court documents show Clifford has been under investigation since June.
The charges against Ms. Clifford and her collaborators highlight a black market industry of fake vaccination cards that has gone viral this year.
With only about 52% of the country fully immunized and a small number of Americans suspecting vaccines, fake cards are being offered on messaging services like Telegram and WhatsApp, as well as social media platforms. like Instagram. Counterfeit goods have been discovered for sale on Amazon and Etsy.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection this month said its agents in Memphis have seized more than 3,000 counterfeit cards in 2021 so far. Earlier this year, the National Bar Association sent a letter to the heads of Twitter, Shopify and eBay asking them to take immediate action to stop the sale of fake tags on their sites.
Concerns about counterfeit cards have grown as states, cities, and corporations appear more willing to authorize vaccinations for certain activities and groups.
Understanding the mission of vaccines and masks in the US
- Vaccination rules. On August 23, the Food and Drug Administration fully licensed Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for persons 16 years of age and older, paving the way for increased mandates throughout the region. public and private. Private companies are increasingly required to vaccinate their employees. Such duties are legally permitted and have been upheld during court trials.
- Mask rule. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of immunization status, wear face masks in indoor public places in disease-affected areas, reversing the agency’s guidance. This agency was released in May. See where CDC guidance applies and where states have established their own mask policies. The mask fight has become controversial in several states, with some local leaders defying the state’s ban.
- Colleges and Universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Almost all were in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. Both California and New York City have introduced mandates to vaccinate education workers. A survey released in August found that many American parents with school-age children oppose mandatory vaccinations for students, but are more in favor of making face masks mandatory for students. unvaccinated students, teachers and staff.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many large hospitals and health systems are requiring staff to get the Covid-19 vaccine, citing the high numbers provided by the Delta variant and low vaccination rates in their communities, even in their workforce.
- New York City. Workers and customers need to have proof of vaccinations when dining in homes, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, although enforcement doesn’t begin until September 13. Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system will need to have at least one dose of the vaccine by September 27, with no weekly testing option. City hospital staff must also be vaccinated or have weekly checkups. The same rules apply to employees of the State of New York.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it will seek to make the coronavirus vaccine mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty soldiers “no later than” mid-September. President Biden announced that all federal civilian employees will have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions for most. tours.
Earlier this month, New York City announced that it would begin requiring workers and customers in indoor restaurant dining rooms, gyms and gigs to get at least one dose of the vaccine.
Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that more than 300,000 city employees would have to be vaccinated or tested weekly, prompting protests from some unions, which are currently negotiating with the mayor’s office over implementation details. .
Law enforcement officials did what they could to prevent fraud. Earlier this month, a pharmacist in Chicago was arrested by federal agents and charged with selling 125 vaccination cards to 11 different buyers on eBay. Last month, a naturopath in California was accused of planning to falsely record her client’s receipt of the Moderna vaccine.
@Tizzyent, the TikTok user who created a video of Miss Clifford’s plans this month, is an independent filmmaker in Florida who has requested that he be identified only by his first name, Michael, because He has received threats for his videos in the past. He said in an interview that he has been fighting misinformation on social platforms for more than a year.
“It was a thing that was just a pet,” he said.
He says he’s been warned about some people selling fake vaccine cards on social media, but @AntiVaxMomma’s scheme appears to be recruiting collaborators when he stumbles across one her posts, seem particularly cutting-edge.
“A few days ago, a good friend of mine passed away from Covid,” he said. “When I see someone come up with a solution like this that puts people at risk, I’m appalled.”
Chelsia Rose Marcius contribution report.