Two nurses on Long Island in New York are accused of forging COVID-19 vaccination cards and pocketing more than US$1.5 million ($2.1 million) from the scheme, prosecutors and police said.
Julie DeVuono, the owner of Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare in Amityville, and her employee, Marissa Urraro, are both charged with felony forgery, and DeVuono also is charged with offering a false instrument for filing. Both were arraigned on Friday (local time).
Urraro’s lawyer, Michael Alber, urged people not to rush to judgement about the allegations and said his client is a well-respected nurse.
“We look forward to highlighting the legal impediments and defects of the investigation,” he said on Saturday (local time).
“It’s our hope that an accusation definitely doesn’t overshadow the good work Miss Urraro’s done for children and adults in the medical field.”
A message seeking comment was left with Ms DeVuono’s attorney.
Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney said Ms DeVuono and Ms Urraro handed out fake vaccination cards, charging $314 for adults and US$121 for children.
DeVuono, a nurse practitioner, and Ms Urraro, a licensed practical nurse, entered the false information into the state’s immunisation database, he said.
Prosecutors said the nurses forged a fake card showing a vaccine was given to an undercover detective but never administered the vaccine to the detective.
Law enforcement officers searched DeVuono’s home and said they seized about $1.2 million in cash and a ledger showing profits of more than $2.1 million from the scheme, which began in November 2021.
“I hope this sends a message to others who are considering gaming the system that they will get caught and that we will enforce the law to the fullest extent,” Mr Tierney said in a statement with other officials.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison added, “As nurses, these two individuals should understand the importance of legitimate vaccination cards as we all work together to protect public health.”