Two Long Island nurses are at the heart of a scandal involving $1.5 million and thousands of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards. Julie DeVuono, 49, owner and operator of Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare in Amityville, and her employee Marissa Urraro, 44, were arrested Thursday, according to the office of the Suffolk County District Attorney.
Both nurses are accused of entering fake shots into the system while secretly pocketing the proceeds.
DeVuono is a licensed nurse practitioner while Urraro is listed as a licensed practical nurse. Both women were charged with one count of second-degree forgery. DeVuono was also charged with first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, according to the release.
Prosecutors say DeVuono received real doses of the vaccine as well as vaccination cards and medical syringes from the New York State Department of Health.
The women reportedly traded official vaccination cards for payment. They were found out when an undercover detective visited the clinic on more than one occasion even though he never received a shot.
Both nurses are also accused of entering false information into the New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS) database.
Records show they charged each adult $220 for the false vaccination cards and $85 for children.
When the police raided DeVuono’s home, they found over $900,000 in cash and a ledger that shows the women made $1.5 million between November 2021 to January 2022.
According to DeVuono’s attorney, Barry Mark Smolowitz, the NP was arraigned on Friday morning along with Urraro. Both entered a plea of not guilty.
Urraro’s attorney, Michael J. Alber, tried to defend his client’s actions in court. “An accusation should not overshadow the good work Ms. Urraro has done for children and adults in the medical field.”
“In today’s uncertain times courts are issuing rulings regarding the Government overstepping their limits. Because of this, now more than ever, it is so important that there is no rush to judgment in forming an opinion against a respected LPN (licensed practical nurse). We look forward to highlighting the legal impediments and defects in this investigation,” Alber added.
He also said Urraro is “a respected licensed practical nurse who has led an exemplary career.” He added that, “From our preliminary investigation, there are defects in the [prosecutors’] investigation and legal impediments to how the case came about.”
However, Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney issued a scolding critique of the women while justifying the charges.
“These individuals allegedly used their positions as licensed healthcare professionals to engage in criminal conduct for their financial benefit,” the DA said. “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,” he added.
“Forging COVID-19 vaccination cards and entering false information into the New York State database used to track vaccination records puts the health and well-being of others at risk and undermines efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” said special agent Scott Lampert.
DeVuono’s husband Derin DeVuono, who is a New York Police Department officer, is being investigated by the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau for his possible involvement in his wife’s alleged scheme.
Records show Derin DeVuono lost five vacation days in 2020 after he was accused of piloting a NYPD spy plane on a penis-shaped flight path in 2017 when he was a member of the department’s Aviation Unit.
He was assigned to Brooklyn’s 60th Precinct after he was accused of misusing the federally funded $4 million Cessna plane, making improper entries in a flight log, and not conducting flight surveys.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul recently signed a bill into law criminalizing fake COVID-19 vaccination cards. Both women were released without bail.
“As nurses, these two individuals should understand the importance of legitimate vaccination cards as we all work together to protect public health,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison added in a statement.