DA: Online 'entrepreneur' sold forged vaccine cards to health-care workers

New York authorities have charged a self-described entrepreneur operating online as @AntiVaxMomma selling hundreds of forged COVID-19 vaccination cards at $200 apiece, including to more than a dozen essential workers at hospitals and nursing homes.

The woman, identified as Jasmine Clifford, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, used Instagram to sell about 250 forged cards and took payment through CashApp and Zelle, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office said.

She is also accused of working with a woman, identified as Nadayza Barkley, who works at an urgent care clinic on Long Island, to fraudulently enter people's names into the New York state database as having been vaccinated, the DA said. This extra service allegedly cost an additional $250.

"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," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. 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."

Authorities also arrested 13 people for buying the forged CDC cards who work in "public-facing or other essential-employee settings — including hospitals, medical and nursing schools, and nursing homes," the DA's office said. 

An investigator with the New York State Police became aware of the scam a few weeks after it allegedly launched in May. He tested it by contacting Clifford to order a fake card and to be added to the state vaccine database, prosecutors said.

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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 info he provided had been inputted into the state database.

Clifford, 31, was charged with a pair of felonies and a misdemeanor — offering a false instrument, criminal possession of a forged instrument, and conspiracy. 

Barkley, 27, of Bellport, New York, is charged with a felony and a misdemeanor. 

Online court records did not list lawyers for Clifford or Barkley who could comment.

"If you are aware of anyone selling fake vaccination cards, please call my Office's Financial Frauds Bureau at 212-335-8900," Vance said in a statement.

With The Associated Press.