FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 9, 2022
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez Establishes Helpline to Report Vaccination Fraud and Relief Program Abuse
Allocates Special Resources to Investigate and Prosecute Those Who Sell or Present Fake Vaccine Credentials or Scam Taxpayer-Funded COVID Relief Programs
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced the creation of a new helpline and email address to accept reports of the use or sale of fraudulent vaccination records to combat abuses that can endanger the public. The helpline will also assist the public in reporting the abuse of pandemic relief programs for businesses and individuals including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) and unemployment benefits.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “Falling COVID numbers are very encouraging, but those who selfishly sell or present fake vaccination credentials put our progress, our healthcare system, and the lives of vulnerable people at risk. We have no tolerance for this crime in Brooklyn, and I encourage anyone who has information regarding the use of fraudulent vaccination credentials or abuse of COVID financial relief programs to call our new helpline.”
The new helpline is (718) 250-2255 and the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Calls and emails will be answered by trained specialists in the District Attorney’s Action Center and reviewed by a dedicated team.
Abuses of financial relief programs intended to assist individuals and businesses impacted by pandemic-related hardships have been a priority for the District Attorney’s Office since the onset of the public health crisis, including investigations into fraudulent applications for PPP and EDIL loans backed by the federal Small Business Administration. The Office also has pending investigations into fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits.
In December 2021, Governor Hochul signed New York’s “Truth in Vaccination Law,” which gives prosecutors stronger tools to hold accountable those who create, sell, or use fraudulent vaccine cards or digital proof of vaccination. Depending on the circumstances, violators could face misdemeanor charges carrying a penalty of up to a year in jail or felony charges carrying penalties of up to seven years in prison. The creation, sale or use of fraudulent vaccine cards also violates federal law.
The District Attorney noted several signs that a vaccine card may be fraudulent:
– Vaccine card edges that have been cut unevenly with scissors
– The vaccine card contains spelling errors or improper spacing or punctuation in the typed text
– The listed intervals between shots that are less than those indicated by the manufacturers (three weeks for Pfizer-BioNTech and four weeks for Moderna)
– The card is on paper thinner than the cardstock used by the CDC.
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office is currently prosecuting three alleged cases of vaccine card fraud and several investigations remain ongoing.
Individuals who have lost their vaccine card and were vaccinated in New York City can obtain that vaccine record online from the City’s immunization database at https://myvaccinerecord.cityofnewyork.us/myrecord/. Digital proof of vaccination is available through the NYS Wallet app available in the Apple or Android app stores.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.