District Court Enters Permanent Injunction Shutting Down Fake CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card Operation
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio entered a consent decree permanently enjoining a Columbus-area woman from producing and selling fake Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 vaccination cards.
In a civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, the government alleged that Tiffany Keller, 39, of Junction City, Ohio, produced and sold fake CDC COVID-19 vaccination cards in violation of Section 1140 of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1320b-10. The complaint alleged that Keller advertised her services on a blog that discussed how to make fake CDC COVID-19 vaccination cards and offered to print fake cards for $40 per card and ship them to paying customers via priority mail. Keller sold more than 77 fake cards.
“Printing, selling and distributing fake vaccine cards undermines important efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The department is committed to working with our federal partners to root out this kind of unlawful activity.”
“During this time of a national emergency, individuals should not capitalize on the situation for their own greed,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker for the Southern District of Ohio. “This type of fraud is particularly problematic as it could endanger the health of others.”
“Manufacturing and selling fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards can undermine critical public health measures and put the health of Americans at risk,” said Acting Chief Counsel Robert DeConti of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “HHS-OIG remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable those who attempt to illegally profit from the pandemic.”
It is a violation of federal law for individuals to reproduce, reprint, or distribute any item consisting of a form, application, or other publication of HHS for a fee without express authorization from HHS. HHS-OIG is authorized to impose a civil money penalty of up to $11,506 for each violation.
Under the terms of the consent decree and final judgement, Keller admitted that the allegations in the complaint are true and agreed to be permanently enjoined from, among other things, (1) engaging in prohibited acts related to the misuse of HHS departmental words, symbols, or emblems; (2) reproducing, reprinting, distributing, selling or offering for sale fake CDC COVID-19 vaccination cards; and (3) using any means, including but not limited to blogs and social media platforms to advertise or solicit the sale of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards. Should Keller violate the terms of the consent decree, the order also subjects her to the imposition of civil money penalties in the amount of $442,981 for her violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1320b-10(a)(2)(B), as specified in the complaint.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. Run out of the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international actors committing civil or criminal fraud and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Information about fake CDC COVID-19 vaccination cards can be reported to HHS OIG by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS or 1-800-447-5477. Anyone with information about allegations of fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
The government is represented by Trial Attorneys Yolanda D. McCray Jones of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, Christopher Reimer of the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J.T. Downey of the Southern District of Ohio. HHS-OIG provided substantial investigative support.