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Chicago pharmacist arrested for selling COVID-19 vaccine cards on eBay

Chicago pharmacist arrested for selling COVID-19 vaccine cards on eBay
A Chicago pharmacist faces charges of selling authentic COVID-19 vaccination cards online. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Federal authorities have arrested and charged a 34-year-old Chicago man with selling 125 authentic government-issued COVID-19 vaccination cards on eBay.

Tangtang Zhao, a licensed pharmacist in Illinois, is accused of selling the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cards for about $10 each to 11 different buyers online between March 25 and April 11, according to the indictment.

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He has been charged with 12 counts of theft of government priority and faces up to 120 years in prison, 10 years for each count, and he made his initial court appearance on Tuesday.

"Knowingly selling COVID-19 vaccination cards is inexcusable and will not be tolerated," Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. of the FBI's Field Office said in a statement. "To put such a small price on the safety of our nation is not only an insult to those who are doing their part in the fight to stop COVID-19, but a federal crime with serious consequences."

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Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. of the Justice Department's Criminal Division said they take seriously any offence that contributes to distrust around vaccines and one's vaccination status.

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"The Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners are committed to protecting the American people from these offenses during this national emergency," he said.

Zhao's arrest was made days after the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that agents at its Memphis, Tenn., port had seized counterfeit vaccine cards made in China.

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It said it made 15 seizures of packages containing between 20 and 100 fake vaccination cards during one night.

To date, the Memphis port has made 121 such seizures for a total of 3,017 counterfeit vaccination cards.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Sunday urged federal authorities in a press conference to crack down on those seeking to sell counterfeit vaccine cards.

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"The bottomline is amidst the covid crisis and successful efforts to get free vaccination out to the masses, there is a new surge, an unfortunate surge, of counterfeit COVID cards," he said, adding, "We need the authorities to use the laws that are on the books and stop that from happening."

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