Naturopathic Doctor Pleads Guilty To Fake COVID-19 Immunization And Vaccination Card Scheme
SAN FRANCISCO – A California-licensed naturopathic doctor pleaded guilty today for scheming to sell homeoprophylaxis immunization pellets and for falsifying COVID-19 vaccination cards by making it appear that customers had received the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-authorized Moderna vaccine. The Hon. Charles R. Breyer, U.S. District Judge accepted the plea.
“Juli Mazi has admitted that she engaged in a scheme to sell fake health care records to her customers,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds. “Mazi made profits by selling false immunization cards she knew would be used to mislead schools into believing students had been immunized from childhood illnesses as required by law. Mazi also sold fake COVID-19 Vaccination Record Cards suggesting she administered the Moderna vaccine to her customers when, in fact, she had not. Mazi’s fake health care records scheme endangered the health and well-being of students and the general public at a time when confidence in our public health system is of critical importance.”
“This doctor violated the public’s trust and reliance on health care professionals – during a time when integrity was needed most,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Instead of providing sage information and guidance, Mazi profited from peddling unapproved remedies, stirring up false fears, and generating fake proof of vaccinations. The Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners are committed to protecting the American people during this national emergency, including protecting trust in the medical developments allowing us to emerge from the pandemic.”
According to court documents, in April 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) received a complaint from a member of the public that Juli A. Mazi, 41, of Napa, was offering homeoprophylaxis immunization pellets which she claimed would provide lifelong protection from COVID-19. Mazi also provided fake CDC COVID-19 vaccination record cards with instructions on how to complete the cards to make them falsely appear to be records of the FDA-authorized Moderna vaccine. The investigation revealed that Mazi provided fake CDC COVID-19 vaccination cards for more than 200 individuals.
According to court documents, Mazi also offered homeoprophylaxis immunization pellets in place of childhood vaccinations required for attendance at school. Mazi provided her patients with deceptive “immunization” cards which she knew would be submitted to schools, and which fraudulently indicated that authorized vaccines had been administered. The investigation revealed that Mazi provided these fake immunization cards to more than 100 individuals.
“During a time when the public has been heavily reliant on our medical professionals for advice and guidance, Mazi has brazenly violated the trust of the public by instilling fear and spreading misinformation surrounding COVID-19 immunizations and treatments,” said FBI Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the Criminal Investigative Division. “There is no place for fraudulent activity, and the FBI will continue to investigate and pursue those who abuse their positions of authority to try and profit in this criminal manner.”
“By falsifying vaccine cards, providers not only undermine important measures to address the ongoing public health emergency; they can also endanger the health of their patients and the public,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven Ryan of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “HHS-OIG is proud to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that all health care providers who misuse their medical professional status for financial gain are held accountable.”
“The FDA plays a critical role in protecting public health during the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to take swift action on fraudulent COVID-19 products, such as this unauthorized and unproven purported ‘immunization’,” said Special Agent in Charge Lisa L. Malinowski, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Los Angeles Field Office. “We will continue to pursue, investigate and bring to justice those whose actions jeopardize the public health.”
“The defendant spread inaccurate medical information about COVID-19 for personal gain, clearly taking advantage of a situation that had made our community vulnerable,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Tim Stone. “As the government worked to provide accurate and relevant information during the pandemic, Mazi took advantage of the situation and chose to line her own pockets with profits from fraudulent vaccine documents and medicine, abusing the trust placed in her as a medical professional. The FBI will not tolerate such an abuse of trust,” he said.
On February 2, 2022, the Office of the United States Attorney filed an information charging Mazi with one count of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, and one count of making false statements related to health care matters, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1035. Pursuant to today’s plea agreement, Mazi pleaded guilty to both counts.
Judge Breyer scheduled Mazi’s sentencing for July 29, 2022. Mazi faces a maximum statutory prison sentence of 20 years for the wire fraud charge and 5 years for the false statements charge. In addition, each charge carries a maximum $250,000 fine and 3 years of supervised release. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
HHS-OIG’s San Francisco Regional Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office are investigating the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Lloyd-Lovett of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California and Trial Attorney Sridhar Babu Kaza of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section’s National Rapid Response Strike Force 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 Criminal Division’s efforts to combat health care fraud through the Health Care Fraud Strike Force Program. Since March 2007, this program, comprised of 15 strike forces operating in 24 federal districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $19 billion. In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, are taking steps to hold providers accountable for their involvement in health care fraud schemes. More information can be found at https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/health-care-fraud-unit.
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. 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 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 (NCDF) Hotline 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.