Faking a vaccination card is a federal offense

I had been curious about the legal consequences of issuing and using fake covid-19 vaccination cards. I had assumed that it would be at most a violation of state laws and would depend upon what the individual states had decided. But it turns out that it is a federal violation and can thus be prosecuted anywhere in the country. This is because the Centers for Disease Control is a federal agency and the CDC logo is on the cards.

Some people have already fallen afoul of the law, such as a Miami couple who used fake cards to try and circumvent Hawaii’s covid-19 prevention measures.

Enzo Dalmazzo, 43, and Daniela Dalmazzo, 31, were charged with falsifying a vaccine card, with Daniela facing an additional two counts for submitting fake documents for their two children, according to complaints filed by the Hawaii Attorney General’s office.

Court documents show the couple was arrested on Aug. 11 after an airport screener became suspicious about the children’s vaccine cards due to their age. The two kids were born in 2016 and 2017, and are too young to have been inoculated with any of the three vaccines currently approved for emergency use in the U.S.

Full vaccination, however, is not required to visit Hawaii. Travelers can also present a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours before a trip.

Violating the state’s COVID-19 mandates, including falsifying a vaccination card, is a misdemeanor that can result in a fine of up to $5,000, up to a year in prison or both.

The couple was cited a total of $8,000 and posted bail. It was the second known case of visitors using fake vaccination cards to bypass quarantine in the last week.

It is astonishing the extent to which some people will go to avoid taking a simple, quick, and free measure that could save their lives and that of their children. And yet, despite going to all that trouble to get fake cards, they did not do the simple checking that would have told them that young children are not being vaccinated yet.

Meanwhile, a pharmacist who was selling fake vaccination cards at $10 each has been arrested.

A Chicago pharmacist has been charged with stealing official COVID-19 vaccination cards and selling them on eBay for roughly $10 each, federal prosecutors say.

Tangtang Zhao, 34, allegedly sold 125 authentic Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccination cards to 11 buyers in March and April.

A black market for blank vaccine cards has cropped up online in recent months, but federal officials say it is illegal to use one if you are unvaccinated. People who receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which is free, are issued a vaccine card.

Each count of theft of government property carries a potential maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Even if they are willing to commit a crime, some criminals would do well to do a simple risk/reward calculation before embarking on a criminal act. A pharmacist is a well-paying job. This guy was risking losing his job, getting a massive prison sentence, and destroying his life just to sell vaccination cards at a low price on the retail market that would net him a few thousand dollars at most.


  1. moarscienceplz says

    If doing risk/reward calculations was easy for all people, we would have 99% vaccination rates in the USA.

  2. blf says

    Here in France, the hugely successful Health Pass — paper or app, proving one has been fully-vaccinated or recently tested negative, etc., and is mandatory for restaurants, cafes, bars, etc., both inside and outdoors — and with the vaccine (and, currently, testing) being free and (relatively) easy to obtain, has nonetheless created a market in fakes, Black market for fake Covid health passes flourishes in France. Unfortunately, some of the fake proof-of-vaccinations are generated by staff at the vaccine centres, and hence are not only not easily-detected, but also result in false data in the (national) database. And, as per the cited article, the cost of the fakes is hundreds of Euros (€). (Contrary to persistent rumour, entries in that database all-but-cannot be traced back to individuals, due to the entries essentially being cryptographically-secure hashes; the Health Pass is noting much more than a QR-code representation of that hash, which is looked-up in that database by the verification app.)

    The protests (here in France) against the Health Pass, vaccinations, and masks, have not amounted to much (despite what some (foreign?) press has implied) and is declining. The Health Pass measures have held a fairly-steady approval rating (over 60% (from memory)), and I recently read (but lost the link-to) a plausible claim the protestors are thought by 50%(-plus?) to be eejits. The protestors are a motley collection of nazis (e.g., Le Pen’s mob), loonytarians, (hardcore) anti-vaxxers, a confused “far left” cohort, and “Yellow Vest” (anti-Macron) nutcases.

  3. garnetstar says

    Not to mention, if you’re going to risk your job and criminal charges, selling fake cards for only $10??? Anti-vaxxers are so gullible and so set on evading public health standards that they’d gladly pay $100, or $500, or more.

    If you can’t even be successful at such an easy crime, maybe you weren’t a very good pharmacist, either. Might as well go to jail.

  4. Holms says

    $10 profit per sale, while risking a 10 year prison sentence. Someone is not very good at risk/reward calculation.

  5. flex says

    Well, I’m not defending the guy because what he did was harmful and stupid, but I see it as possibly a sign of a greater problem.

    There is nothing on the card itself indicating the potential punishment for counterfeiting them. He should have taken the time to learn what the punishments would be, and he certainly should have been able to figure out that even if faking the cards wasn’t something he would go to jail for, he would be fired from his job. The cost/benefit analysis is so strongly against counterfeiting COVID vaccination records that the only thing I can suggest is that he thought he would never get caught.

    But, I didn’t know the penalty for counterfeiting cards, and Mano in the OP didn’t either. So, even though we would expect someone who was thinking about faking them would look into it, we would not immediately understand that the penalty for selling 125 cards would possibly as great as 1250 years in prison. Because, yes, prosecutors could ask for each stolen form to be considered a separate theft. I would never consider stealing forms, and I know Mano wouldn’t either, but we were ignorant of the penalty.

    Which brings me to my point. In a comment on another blog I mentioned that it seemed strange that people who have become ill with a COVID infection get to the hospital and request the vaccine. This shows a real ignorance of how vaccines work. But it is consistent with how televisions and movies often portray how shots work. The world-weary, hard-bitten, hero battles tremendous odds to bring the anti-venom to the dying fair-haired child, the shot is given, and in a couple hours there is a tear-jerking scene where the hero learns that love is the most important thing in the world. At least some of the people contacting COVID believe that a vaccine is not only a preventative but also a cure, there is really no other explanation as to why they would ask for the vaccine after they are ill. The messaging from the CDC does not acknowledge that some portion of people don’t understand how vaccines work. I think the CDC is so used to everyone they work with understanding how vaccines work that it never crossed their mind that people who think a vaccine is also a cure.

    I’ll give another example. My wife and I enjoyed going out to lunch yesterday, something we have rarely done since COVID hit. We went to an exhibition of Jim Henson’s work and then to a favorite restaurant which we haven’t been to since the start of the epidemic. As usual, the restaurant was excessively air conditioned, it has been for years. However, this time I looked around for the thermostats. I found them, cleverly hidden by being completely contained within boxes which allowed no airflow around them. It was clearly done to match the early American décor, but it also prevented the thermostats from accurately reading the temperature of the room. A similar thing happened to me a few decades ago when I was set designer for a theater troop, the theater we were in had the thermostat mounted near a window, which is common and not a bad location. However, when the theater got too hot, the cast would open the window, in the wintertime, to cool off. Bathing the thermostat with the freezing outside air only made the theater hotter. The ignorance of how thermostats work meant that the corrective action people tried just made it worse.

    An HVAC expert, not just someone who installs or maintains an HVAC system, would have looked at each of the above examples and it probably wouldn’t have even crossed their minds that people didn’t understand how thermostats work. But if confronted with the problem would offer solutions which would eliminate the need to educate the people. That is, from a design perspective people are unreliable and change too often, so it is better to make a system which operates without needing the input from people. So they would suggest putting in a lot of temperature sensors, creating zones with automatically controlled louvers, and using a PLC to control it all. If someone sets the temperature for the building at 23 degrees, the system will monitor rooms and the return air to ensure it stays that way. No need for anyone but the expert to understand how a thermostat works. Until something goes wrong, and then the expert needs to be summoned because no one aside from the expert knows how the system works.

    But, as a society facing an epidemic, we have two problems.

    First, a distrust of experts. We have a DIY society. There are a few reasons for this. One reason is a long-cherished, and heavily promoted in some areas, belief that experts are really con artists who claim expertise in order to manipulate a person into giving them money or supporting a cause they wouldn’t normally support. The first question asked when the experts say that smoking causes lung cancer, or that global warming will cause untold misery is, “Who’s paying them to say that?”. This attitude is reinforced by our capitalist system where experts do cost more to hire. Whether it’s hiring an expert drywaller to finish a bathroom, or an expert auto mechanic to repair a broken car, a person will pay more than if they did the work themselves, or even if they relied on a you-tube videos to do the job. This isn’t necessarily a mistake, I’m drywalling a bathroom now, and I’m doing it myself. But I will take about six-times as long as a professional drywaller, for about one-quarter of the cost and a lot less quality. I’ve made that decision knowing that I don’t need that level of quality for my guest bathroom, and the time isn’t a huge factor when we aren’t having people over because of COVID. The attitude of not relying on experts and “just-make-it-work” is common among the people I grew up with, but most of them know that in some cases experts are necessary.

    Second, along with the attitude that experts are really just con men, we also live in a society where in some fields we have a plethora of competing experts. At least, people claiming to be experts. So, while a person may distrust experts, they can also find an “expert” which says what they already want to hear. Choose your own expert! This ties nicely into the belief that experts will say way someone pays them to say. And if the “expert” they choose offers something which looks cheaper, or easier, or confirms beliefs already held, that’s the expert they will choose to accept. Even if the hidden costs are far greater, like death.

    What people often don’t consider is that the salesman who agrees with them on every point is not really concerned with their welfare, but only making a profit. Someone who agrees with you is far more likely to be a con artist than any expert who will point out problems, solutions, or alternative methods. Experts will use their expertise to offer the best job they know how to do, whether it’s a mechanic or a physician. Experts will know the risks of a haphazard, slipshod, job. Experts will know the regulations (and penalties for violating them) surrounding the work. The customer may not be happy, and will likely pay more, with an expert.

    This all ties together, and links back to my first point. People are ignorant of how systems work, prefer to “do their own research” before calling an expert, and will often choose experts which are no such thing because the “expert” reinforces their own expectations. While this behavior isn’t that harmful if it is restricted to those things which are recoverable, i.e. not understanding how a thermostat works just wastes energy and makes people uncomfortable. But ignorance, you-tube research, and selecting “experts who already agree with your opinions is tremendously dangerous when applied to things like medical treatment, economics, international relations, and selecting politicians.

  6. garnetstar says

    “I think the CDC is so used to everyone they work with understanding how vaccines work that it never crossed their mind that people who think a vaccine is also a cure.”

    Au contraire. The CDC is so used to Americans’ utter ignorance and our complete imperviousness to learning that they know that there is no use trying to explain the difference between a cure and a preventative.

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