Source: New12 New Jersey
Jasmine Clifford, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, was charged Tuesday with offering a false instrument, criminal possession of a forged instrument and conspiracy. Authorities say she sold about 250 fake vaccine cards in recent months.
Clifford’s alleged co-conspirator, Nadayza Barkley, of Bellport, Long Island, did not enter a plea at an arraignment Tuesday morning in Manhattan criminal court on charges of offering a false instrument and conspiracy.
Prosecutors say Barkley entered at least 10 names into the state’s vaccine database while working at a Patchogue medical clinic and received payments for her work from Clifford through the services Zelle and CashApp.
Thirteen alleged card purchasers were also charged, including a man who has been accused of paying to be entered in the database. Actual COVID-19 vaccines are available free of charge.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. called on Facebook, which owns Instagram, and other tech companies to crack down on vaccine card fraudsters, saying in a statement “the stakes are too high to tackle fake vaccination cards with whack-a-mole prosecutions.”
According to prosecutors, Clifford, a self-described online entrepreneur, started hawking forged Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination cards through her AntiVaxMomma Instagram account in May.
A New York state police investigator who became aware of the scam a few weeks later tested it by contacting Clifford to order a fake card and to be added to the state vaccine database, prosecutors said.
In July, the investigator said in court papers, he received a package containing a CDC COVID-19 vaccination card marked with the name and date of birth he provided and a cellphone screenshot showing that the information he provided had also been added to the state database.
The proliferation of fake vaccine cards is a growing concern as more places require proof of vaccination to work, eat in restaurants, and participate in day-to-day activities like going to the gym or seeing a movie. In New York City, such a mandate is already in effect, with enforcement set to begin Sept. 13.
All public school teachers and other staffers in the city are required to get their first vaccinate dose by Sept. 27, while the state has said it is requiring vaccines for health care workers. Other city employees must get vaccinated or tested weekly for the virus.
Colleges and universities requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for students to attend in-person classes have raised concerns about the easy availability of fraudulent vaccine cards through online sellers.
This month, after two tourists were arrested for allegedly using fake vaccine cards to travel into Hawaii, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer called on federal law enforcement agencies to target online sales of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards and start a campaign making clear that forging them could land people in federal prison.