A doctor fills out a vaccination record card after giving the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. A nurse in South Carolina has been indicted for allegedly producing false vaccine cards. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 4 (UPI) -- A nurse at a South Carolina rehabilitation center has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Columbia for allegedly creating fraudulent COVID-19 vaccine cards.
Tammy McDonald, 53, allegedly "personally filled out vaccine cards" for people she knew had not received a COVID-19 vaccine on June 20 and July 28, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Carolina.
She was charged with two counts of producing a fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination record card and faces up to 15 years in prison for each count. She was also charged with lying to federal investigators, for which she faces a sentence of up to five years in prison.
McDonald's arrest marks the first time a resident of South Carolina has been hit with such charges, prosecutors said. The indictment did not name the recipients of the fraudulent vaccine cards or the nursing and rehabilitation center where McDonald worked as the director of nursing services.
Prosecutors said that McDonald was interviewed by federal agents with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in connection to the alleged scheme on Oct. 22.
McDonald allegedly lied to the federal agents, telling them she did not have access to COVID-19 vaccination record cards and that she never produced a false or inaccurate vaccine card, prosecutors said.
"Although the indictment speaks for itself, creating fraudulent or fake vaccine cards for those who have not been vaccinated poses a direct threat to the health of the people of South Carolina," Acting U.S. Attorney M. Rhett DeHart said in the release.
McDonald was arraigned on Friday when she pleaded not guilty to all charges. She was released from custody on a $10,000 bond.
The Justice Department also announced Friday that a Baltimore man had been arrested and charged in connection to another scheme to distribute fake COVID-19 vaccine cards.
Amar Salim Shabazz, 23, allegedly bought more than 600 fraudulent COVID-19 vaccinations cards through a foreign online marketplace and had the cards illegally shipped into the United States where he then sold them online for "$75 a pop," prosecutors said.
Shabazz faces up to 20 years in prison for each charge of mail fraud and obstruction of justice.
Attorney General Merrick Garland established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force on May 17 to investigate and prosecute fraud related to the pandemic. Employers have also started to crack down on the use of fraudulent vaccine cards.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers star wide receiver Antonio Brown was suspended by the league three games for violating the league's COVID-19 protocols.
The Society for Human Resource Management, a professional organization to support the human resources industry and its workers, has written tips for helping employers identify false COVID-19 vaccine cards. Tips include looking for misspellings and inconsistent dates, as well as the absence of all information called for on the card.