Woman Arrested for Fake COVID-19 Immunization and Vaccination Card Scheme
A California-licensed naturopathic doctor was arrested today for her alleged scheme to sell homeoprophylaxis immunization pellets and to falsify COVID-19 vaccination cards by making it appear that customers had received the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Moderna vaccine.
Juli A. Mazi, 41, of Napa, is charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of false statements related to health care matters. The case is the first federal criminal fraud prosecution related to homeoprophylaxis immunizations and fraudulent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 vaccination record cards.
“This defendant allegedly defrauded and endangered the public by preying on fears and spreading misinformation about FDA-authorized vaccinations, while also peddling fake treatments that put people’s lives at risk. Even worse, the defendant allegedly created counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards and instructed her customers to falsely mark that they had received a vaccine, allowing them to circumvent efforts to contain the spread of the disease,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “The Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners are committed to protecting the American people from fraudsters during this national emergency. This commitment is evident in this prosecution as well as in the ongoing work of the Department and our agency partners in the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force established by the Attorney General earlier this year.”
According to court documents, in April 2021, an individual submitted a complaint to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) hotline stating that family members purchased from Mazi COVID-19 homeoprophylaxis immunization pellets. The complainant stated that the family members had told her/him that Mazi stated that the pellets contained the COVID-19 virus and would create an antibody response in the immune system. The complainant reported that her/his family did not receive injections of any of the three FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines. However, in connection with the delivery of the homeoprophylaxis immunization pellets, Mazi sent COVID-19 Vaccination Record cards, with Moderna listed, to the complainant family. Mazi allegedly instructed the complainant family to mark the cards to falsely state that they received the Moderna vaccine on the date that they ingested the COVID-19 homeoprophylaxis immunization pellets.
“Steering through the challenges presented by COVID-19 requires trust and reliance on our medical professionals to provide sage information and guidance,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds for the Northern District of California. “According to the complaint, instead of disseminating valid remedies and information, Juli Mazi profited from unlawfully peddling unapproved remedies, stirring up false fears, and generating fake proof of vaccinations. We will act to protect trust in the medical developments that are enabling us to emerge from the problems presented by the pandemic.”
According to court documents, Mazi offered homeoprophylaxis immunizations for childhood illnesses that she falsely claimed would satisfy the immunization requirements for California schools, and falsified immunization cards that were submitted by parents to California schools. Homeoprophylaxis involves the exposure of an individual to dilute amounts of a disease, purportedly to stimulate the immune system and confer immunity. Mazi is alleged to have falsely claimed that orally ingesting pellets with small amounts of COVID-19 would result in full lifelong immunity from COVID-19.
“This doctor violated the all-important trust the public extends to healthcare professionals — at a time when integrity is needed the most,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven J. Ryan of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “Working closely with our law enforcement partners, our agency will continue to investigate such fraudsters who recklessly endanger the public’s health during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.”
The affidavit alleges that Mazi used the COVID-19 pandemic to expand the pre-existing immunization scheme by selling immunization pellets that she fraudulently claimed, in written documents and consensually monitored recordings, would provide “lifelong immunity to COVID-19.” Mazi explained that the pellets contained a “very minute amount of this [COVID-19] disease” that can result in “infectious symptoms” of COVID-19 or “automatically flag the immune system’s attention, inducing immunity.” To encourage customers to purchase the pellets, Mazi allegedly exploited disinformation and fear by falsely claiming that the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines contain “toxic ingredients.” Mazi further stated that her customers could provide the pellets to children for COVID-19 immunity, and that the “dose is actually the same for babies.”
“Spreading inaccurate or false medical information about COVID-19 for personal gain, as the complaint alleges, is dangerous and only seeds skepticism among the public,” said Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair of the FBI's San Francisco Field Office. “As the government continues to work to provide current and accurate information to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the FBI will continue to pursue those who attempt to fraudulently profit from spreading misinformation and providing false documentation.”
Mazi also provided CDC COVID-19 vaccination record cards to her customers with instructions on how to fraudulently complete the cards to falsely make it appear as if a customer had received two doses of the Moderna vaccine. As part of her scheme, Mazi provided customers with specific Moderna vaccine lot numbers to enter onto the cards and with instruction on how to select the purported dates on which they had received the Moderna vaccines to evade suspicion.
HHS-OIG’s San Francisco Regional Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office are investigating the case.
Trial Attorney Sridhar Babu Kaza of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section’s National Rapid Response Strike Force and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christiaan Highsmith of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California are prosecuting the case.
The case was brought in coordination with the Health Care Fraud Unit’s COVID-19 Interagency Working Group, which is chaired by the National Rapid Response Strike Force and organizes efforts to address illegal activity involving health care programs during the pandemic.
The Fraud Section leads the Health Care Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Health Care Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 federal districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for nearly $19 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
In May, 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. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors 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.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
The Fraud Section uses the Victim Notification System (VNS) to provide victims with case information and updates related to this case. Victims with questions may contact the Fraud Section’s Victim Assistance Unit by calling the Victim Assistance phone line at 1-888-549-3945 or by emailing Victimassistance.firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about victims’ rights, please visit: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-vns/victim-rights-derechos-de-las-v-ctimas.
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.