Bar owner charged for allegedly selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards
A bar owner in California who allegedly sold fake COVID-19 vaccine cards from his business has been charged
A bar owner in California who allegedly sold fake COVID-19 vaccine cards from his business has been charged with multiple offences, including forgery and identity theft.
The owner was arrested at his bar, the Old Corner Saloon, in Clements, California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) said on Wednesday.
The ABC received a complaint that fake vaccination cards were being sold at the bar and opened an investigation. In April, undercover agents were able to buy four fake cards there as part of their investigation, John Carr, an ABC spokesperson, told CNN. They paid US$20 ($25) for each card, he said.
It's not clear how many cards were sold in total. Agents found two completed cards and 30 blank ones with a laminating device, Mr Carr said. Agents also found an unregistered firearm with the bar owner during the arrest at his bar in Clements, which is nearly 60km southeast of Sacramento.
"This is the first case the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has investigated that involves allegations of the sale of fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards," Mr Carr told CNN via email.
US Health officials last year decided that everyone who receives a COVID-19 vaccine will be given a vaccination record card showing their full name, date of birth, type of vaccine and dose dates to keep track of immunisation.
The bar owner faces three felony charges, including carrying an unregistered firearm, forgery of a government seal and identity theft of Pfizer, CVS and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office. He is also charged with creating a false medical record, a misdemeanour.
The man is expected to be arraigned on May 18 in Lodi, California, according to the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office. A spokesperson for the DA's office didn't know whether he had retained legal representation.
The arrest comes as nationwide vaccination rates have fallen. While the United States averaged 3.38 million doses administered per day across a week in mid-April, the current seven-day average is 2.19 million doses per day, according to CDC data.
The most recent numbers as of Wednesday show daily vaccinations have dropped by nearly 20 per cent from last week.
San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar expressed concern about the sale of fake vaccination cards.
"It is disheartening to have members in our community show flagrant disregard for public health in the midst of a pandemic," Mr Salazar said in a statement.
"Distributing, falsifying or purchasing fake COVID-19 vaccine cards is against the law and endangers yourself and those around you."