Thursday marked the first day that children between the ages of 12 through 17 started getting their COVID-19 vaccinations across the country, with the inoculations offering a shot at a return to normal, pre-pandemic life.
And now that the CDC announced that those who have been fully vaccinated no longer have to wear face masks or socially distance in most indoor settings, vaccination cards represent a ticket to freedom, allowing those who have them access to sporting events, concerts and more.
However, with that opportunity comes people willing to cheat the system, willing to pay to have those experiences back without getting vaccinated. The I-Team recently revealed that counterfeit vaccination cards are being sold on encrypted messaging services.
There are other ways to obtain a card illegally. On Thursday, Nassau County police said that a 21-year-old CVS employee was arrested after allegedly pilfering eight pre-filled vaccination cards, just missing the names of the people who would potentially use them, along with 54 blank ones that were found in his car as well.
"They were taken within the last couple of days, with the intent to share them with family members and friends, so that they could go into venues and possibly even use them at schools," said Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.
According to court documents, the employee admitted to selling the cards to kids "so they can go to school." CVS said the worker, who has since been fired, worked at their location on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown. In a statement, the pharmacy chain said in part that it it is cooperating with the investigation.
Authorities said the cards could not have been used with New York State's Excelsior Pass — the so-called COVID passport — because it relies on vaccination databases along with the paper card.
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Zachary Honig was arrested as the county police department's Criminal Intelligence Rapid Response team was checking out a high-crime area. They said that in his car, they also found silver-colored brass knuckles and a controlled substance. County Executive Laura Curran said the scheme is far from a victimless crime — but rather hurts everyone.
"The reason we can get back to normal is because we're getting vaccinated. If you're faking it, it can set the whole thing back," Curran said.
Police were working with federal officials, and do not believe that Honig had yet sold any cards. An investigation is ongoing.
Curran also said she was filing legislation to send a clear message that making fraudulent vaccine cards is not acceptable.
In New Jersey, there is pending legislation that would establish criminal penalties for producing, selling and using a fake COVID-19 vaccination card. Under the proposed bill, those who make, sell or transfer the fake cards could face up to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine; anyone who is caught using a fake one could get five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.