An anti-vaccine entrepreneur calling herself the "AntiVaxMomma" on social media sold about 250 fake COVID-19 vaccination cards through Instagram to New York healthcare workers, while a conspirator entered some of those people into a state database for vaccination registrations, Manhattan prosecutors said Tuesday.
The Manhattan District Attorney's Office charged Jasmine Clifford, 31, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, with selling the fake cards, and Nadayza Barkley, 27, of Bellport, NY, with entering at least 10 of the buyers into the state's centralized NYSIIS database — which powers the state's Excelsior Pass — while working at a Patchogue medical clinic.
A New York state police investigator who became aware of the scam a few weeks later tested it by contacting Clifford to order a fake card and to be added to the state vaccine database, prosecutors said.
In July, the investigator said in court papers, he received a package containing a CDC COVID-19 vaccination card marked with the name and date of birth he provided and a cellphone screenshot showing that the information he provided had also been added to the state database.
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The DA's office also charged 13 people with buying the fake cards from Clifford via her "@AntiVaxMomma" account, among them hospital and nursing home workers. The DA's office said Clifford charged $200 for the cards and Barkley charged an extra $250 to register buyers in the database.
"We will continue to safeguard public health in New York with proactive investigations like these, but the stakes are too high to tackle fake vaccination cards with whack-a-mole prosecutions,” District Attorney Cy Vance said in a statement. “We need companies like Facebook to take action to prevent the fraud happening on their platforms."
Facebook said that it prohibits anyone from buying or selling COVID-19 vaccine cards and that it removed Clifford’s account in early August for breaking its rules.
“We will review any other accounts that might be doing the same thing,” the company said in a written statement. "We appreciate the DA’s work on this matter and will remove this content whenever we find it.”
Both Clifford and Barkley face felony charges related to false instruments and misdemeanor conspiracy charges. Barkley did not enter a plea at her an arraignment Tuesday morning in Manhattan criminal court on charges of offering a false instrument and conspiracy.
Online court records did not list lawyers for Clifford or Barkley who could comment.