Sacramento Area Bar Owner Charged After Selling Fake COVID-19 Vaccine Cards
Multiple felonies include forgery and identity theft
A Northern California business owner has been charged with multiple felonies after being accused of selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards. Todd Anderson, 59, of Acampo, California, was arrested on May 4 at the Old Corner Saloon, a bar that he owns in Clements, nearly 35 miles southeast of Sacramento. The arrest followed a complaint that fake cards indicating that the COVID-19 vaccine had been received were being sold at the location.
California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) has released information indicating that undercover agents made a purchase of fraudlent cards at the bar on multiple occasions this past April.
As part of the undercover investigation, agents were able to purchase four fake cards at the bar, paying $20 for each card. While it's not completely clear how many cards were sold in total, agents report to finding two completed cards and 30 blank ones, in addition to a laminating device.
The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office and the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office executed a search warrant at which resulted in the seizure of materials related to the distribution of the fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards.
Following the sales, Anderson was arrested and charged with a number of felonies, including forgery and identity theft. The creation of forged vaccine cards is a violation of the California Penal Code. Possession of a loaded unregistered firearm is a felony, and one was found during the search. ABC will also seek a criminal complaint on another employee at the bar. In addition, ABC wille filing a disciplinary action against the business. Such disciplinary action may result in a suspension or a revocation of the ABC license.
“It is disheartening to have members in our community show flagrant disregard for public health in the midst of a pandemic. Distributing, falsifying or purchasing fake COVID-19 vaccine cards is against the law and endangers yourself and those around you. The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office is grateful for the partnership with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for their work in this case,” said San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar.
VIDEO: Fake Vaccine Cards Hit the Black Market
It is disheartening to have members in our community show flagrant disregard for public health in the midst of a pandemic. Distributing, falsifying or purchasing fake COVID-19 vaccine cards is against the law and endangers yourself and those around you. - San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has recently created a public service announcement (PSA) warning the public that selling fake vaccination cards with a government logo on them is a crime. The PSA makes it crystal clear of its purpose in its headline, If You Make or Buy a Fake COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card, You Endanger Yourself and Those Around You, and You Are Breaking the Law.
Anderson is facing three felony charges. These include carrying an unregistered firearm, forgery of a government seal and identity theft of Pfizer, CVS and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office explains that Anderson is charged with a misdemenor, creating a false medical record. The expected arraignment date for Anderson is May 18 in Lodi, California, according to the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office. According to the DA's office, it's not clear whether or not Anderson has yet retained legal representation.
'Dark Web' offers fake vaccine passports for interested purchasers
ABC News reports that scams surrounding coronavirus testing, fake protective equipment and fake COVID-19 vaccines have circulated on the internet more frequently since the beginning of the pandemic. The rise in fake vaccine certificates is just another part of a larger criminal scam.
"The darknet is booming with activity related to the vaccines," said Ekram Ahmed, spokesperson for Check Point, a cybersecurity firm. "Cyber criminals are looking to capitalize on the public's interest to both get the vaccine or avoid the vaccine."
"Vaccination certificate for Covid (for those who do not want to be vaccinated)," said one ad found on the dark web, according to Check Point.
"Not every body will like to take the covid19 vaccine and we provide proof of having been vaccinated," said another.
Check Point reports that overall, the number of false advertisements related to vaccines has more than tripled since January.
"It's only a matter of time before hackers find a way to organize fraudulent activity for digital passports," said Ahmed. "With a digital passport in each person's hand, it could make for some serious fraud."