Tangtang Zhao, 34, allegedly sold the cards to 11 buyers for $10 each, the department said. He was licensed in Illinois and worked at a pharmacy that distributed COVID vaccines. He’s now charged with 12 counts of the theft of government property and could face 10 years for each count. Zhao made his first court appearance Tuesday.
“Knowingly selling COVID vaccination cards to unvaccinated individuals puts millions of Americans at risk of serious injury or death,” said Emmerson Buie Jr., a special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office.
“To put such a small price on the safety of our nation is not only an insult to those who are doing their part in the fight to stop COVID-19 but a federal crime with serious consequences.”
Lamont Pugh III, special agent in charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said, “Stealing and selling COVID-19 vaccination cards is inexcusable and will not be tolerated.”
“Fraudsters who engage in such unlawful conduct undermine efforts to address the pandemic and profit at the public’s expense,” Pugh added. “The health and safety of the public is our top priority, and we encourage people to obtain vaccination cards from their administering medical providers.”
Last month, a licensed naturopathic doctor in Napa, California, was arrested for an alleged scheme to provide fake COVID-19 vaccination cards along with homeoprophylaxis immunization pellets. And last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection a shipment from China with more than 3,000 counterfeit vaccine cards.
On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on government agencies to start a campaign to emphasize the legal consequences of illegitimate vaccination cards. He asked for the Department of Justice to immediately prioritize the crackdown of these cases.