2 Michigan men charged in separate vaccination card schemes

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(SOUTHGATE, Mich.) — Federal investigators announced on Wednesday that they’d charged two Michigan men in a pair of unrelated schemes where each allegedly sold phony COVID-19 vaccination cards.

The defendants, one of whom is a registered nurse, allegedly sold the fraudulent cards online via social media accounts and messenger services, prosecutors said.

“Regardless of whether an individual chooses to get vaccinated, we urge everyone to avoid turning to schemes like these to evade vaccination requirements. Importing these cards is a crime. Selling these cards is a crime.” Saima Mohsin, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said in a statement.

Bethann Kierczak, 37, of Southgate, Michigan, was charged with theft of government property and theft or embezzlement related to a health care benefit program, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Kierczak, a registered nurse, allegedly stole or embezzled authentic COVID-19 vaccination record cards from a VA hospital along with vaccine lot numbers necessary to make the cards appear legitimate, prosecutors said. He allegedly sold the cards to individuals in the Detroit community for $150 to $200 each and began selling via Facebook Messenger in May.

“Since the matter of public health is so important the VA Office of Inspector General will continue to devote resources to these cases whenever and wherever they arise,” Special Agent in Charge Gregg Hirstein of the VA Office of Inspector General said in a statement.

Rapheal Jarrell Smiley, 32, of Detroit, was charged Wednesday with fraud involving department or agency seals, identity document fraud and trafficking in counterfeit goods, federal prosecutors said.

Smiley allegedly ordered fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards from two distributors in China that have been accused of supplying the phony documents, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Smiley allegedly advertised the cards for sale through his Facebook and Instagram accounts.

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