- A Marine reservist and Long Island nurse gave out hundreds of fake COVID-19 vaccine cards, prosecutors allege.
- Prosecutors say the alleged scheme took place between March 2021 and February 2022.
- The two individuals were charged with conspiracy and face up to a decade in prison if convicted.
A US Marine Corps reservist and a Long Island nurse distributed hundreds of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards over the past year, according to court documents.
Jia Liu, a reservist, and Steven Rodriguez, a nurse, were arrested and charged on Thursday by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York with one count of conspiring to defraud the Department of Health and Human Services, and one count of conspiring to commit forgery, prosecutors said.
Liu is also being charged with one count of conspiring to defraud the Department of Defense by providing the cards to fellow reservists, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Liu and Rodriguez’s alleged scheme involved over 300 stolen or fake vaccination cards in circulation from at least March 2021 until February 2022.
Prosecutors also allege the duo conspired to enter fake vaccination status data into New York’s state databases.
The prosecutors claim that Liu purchased blank vaccine cards from Rodriguez to then fill out and sell and say that Rodriguez sometimes would meet a “buyer” and destroy a vile of the vaccine instead of administering the shot for the patient.
“As alleged, by deliberately distributing fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards to the unvaccinated, the defendants put military and other communities at risk of contracting a virus that has already claimed nearly one million lives in this country,” US Attorney Brian Peace said.
The duo would market their scheme on social media using code words like “Pokemon cards,” “gift cards,” “Cardi Bs,” and “Christmas cards,” according to prosecutors.
“Schemers who defraud the government in any way — and profit from pocketing the funds — will continue to be held accountable,” FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Driscoll said.
Information for both Liu and Rodriguez’s attorney was not immediately available.
The duo faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Two Long Island nurses and a receptionist were arrested a few weeks ago for allegedly forging vaccine cards and entering false information into the state vaccine database, Insider’s Katie Balevic reported.
In December, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a law making it illegal to falsify vaccine records.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.