Health

Two US nurses made more than $1.5m in fake vaccine card scheme, prosecutors say

The nurses, Julie DeVuono, who owns Wild Child
Pediatric Healthcare in Amityville, and Marissa Urraro, her employee, sold fake
vaccination cards and entered false information into New York’s immunisation
database, prosecutors said. They charged $220 for forged cards for adults and
$85 for children, according to the district attorney’s office.

DeVuono, 49, and Urraro, 44, were arraigned
Friday, each charged with one count of second-degree forgery. DeVuono was also
charged with one count of offering a false instrument for filing.

Michael Alber, Urraro’s lawyer, said she had
entered a plea of not guilty and had been released without bail.

“We look forward to highlighting the legal
impediments and defects in this investigation,” Alber said. “An accusation
should not overshadow the good work Ms. Urraro has done for children and adults
in the medical field.”

DeVuono’s lawyer could not be reached for
comment.

During the arraignment Friday, prosecutors
accused the women of forging a vaccine card for an undercover detective, even
though the vaccine had not been administered.

Prosecutors said law enforcement officers
searched DeVuono’s home and seized about $900,000 in cash and a ledger that suggested
they made $1.5 million in the scheme from November to January.

“I hope this sends a message to others who are
considering gaming the system that they will get caught and that we will
enforce the law to the fullest extent,” the Suffolk County district attorney,
Raymond A. Tierney, said in a statement.

Yvonne Gamble, a spokesperson for the Office
of Inspector General at the US Department of Health and Human Services, said
schemes involving forged vaccination cards, like the one on Long Island, damaged
efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

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“The proliferation of fake COVID-19
vaccination cards can jeopardise efforts to address the ongoing public health
emergency,” Gamble said. “Therefore, we encourage the public to obtain valid
proof of COVID-19 vaccination from their administering medical providers
instead of creating fake vaccination cards or purchasing them from unauthorised
sources.”

©2022 The New York Times Company

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