Proof of vaccination cards can be a hot commodity, giving you access to bars, restaurants, and events in the post-pandemic world. But vaccine cards can also be relatively easy to fake.
A Nappa, California doctor was arrested on Wednesday for selling counterfeit vaccine cards and immunization pellets that don’t offer protection from the virus. Federal prosecutors say he could face up to 25 years in prison for what appears to be the first major COVID-19 vaccination scandal involving a licensed healthcare provider.
Scheming for Vaccines
According to the U.S. Justice Department, Juli A. Mazi, 41, a licensed naturopathic doctor, started her fake vaccination campaign in the spring. An individual called the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General Hotline in April to file a complaint against Mazi after she sold the caller’s family homeoprophylaxis immunization pellets that Mazi claimed contained the COVID-19 virus and “would create an antibody response in the immune system.” The complaint goes on to say the family didn’t receive any of the COVID-19 vaccines with FDA authorization currently being administered in the U.S.
The person explained that the immunization pellets would arrive in the mail with fake vaccine cards. Mazi also included instructions for how to fill out the cards to make it look like “they received the Moderna vaccine on the date that they ingested the purported Covid-19 homeoprophylaxis immunization pellets,” the complaint reads.
The complainant recorded a phone call with Mazi in June, during which she claimed that a remedy can be made for practically any disease using a process called “homeoprophylaxis,” which means ingesting small amounts of the target disease, so the body can build up immunity.
“‘So, the remedy for COVID has been available since the beginning, and I’ve been offering that,'” Mazi told the person, according to the complaint.
During the same conversation, Mazi added that the dosage for the pellets was the same for “babies,” and asked the person if they were interested in buying vaccinations for school-age children in the form of homeoprophylaxis. The caller ended up purchasing immunization pellets for $243.
Mazi has used fake immunization cards to get around school vaccination requirements in the past. In August 2020, a student showed up to school in Mendocino County carrying an immunization card with Mazi’s name listed as the provider.
Authorities said the card looked “unusual because it indicated a spacing of the immunizations that did not reflect the typical dosage regimen for the FDA-approved vaccines referenced on the card.”
Another person called the Health and Human Services hotline to file a complaint against Mazi. The individual learned about Mazi’s COVID-19 vaccination services through their significant other. According to the complaint, the significant other’s roommate took the homeoprophylaxis pellets for COVID-19, which led to “gastrointestinal discomfort and an overall feeling of being unwell.”
Records show Mazi made $221,817 from the scheme, making some 1,242 transactions from January 2020 to May 2021. The majority of transactions didn’t state their express purpose, but court documents show at least 25 of which involved homeoprophylaxis treatments for COVID-19.
Arrested and Charged
Federal prosecutors revealed Mazi is facing one charge of wire fraud and one count of false statements related to health matters.
“This defendant allegedly defrauded and endangered the public by preying on fears and spreading misinformation about FDA-authorized vaccinations, while also peddling fake treatments that put people’s lives at risk. Even worse, the defendant allegedly created counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards and instructed her customers to falsely mark that they had received a vaccine, allowing them to circumvent efforts to contain the spread of the disease,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said of Mazi.
“According to the complaint, instead of disseminating valid remedies and information, Juli Mazi profited from unlawfully peddling unapproved remedies, stirring up false fears, and generating fake proof of vaccinations. We will act to protect trust in the medical developments that are enabling us to emerge from the problems presented by the pandemic,'” Acting US Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds added.
The Justice Department said Mazi could serve up to 20 years behind bars for wire fraud plus another five years for making false health-related statements. She may also have to pay up to $250,000 for each charge, along with three years of supervised release.
Mazi isn’t the first person to be arrested for issuing and/or selling fake vaccination cards.
Bar owner Todd Anderson, 59, was arrested in May of this year after authorities caught him selling counterfeit cards. After receiving a tip, several undercover agents purchased four COVID-19 vaccine cards from Anderson, paying $20 for each card. The agents found around 30 blank cards along with a laminating device.
Anderson now faces three felony charges, including carrying an unregistered firearm, forgery of a government seal, and identity theft of Pfizer, CVS, and the CDC. He also faces one count of creating a false medical record, which is a misdemeanor.
Fake vaccination cards not only create a false sense of security, but they also lead to distrust of the medical system while undermining our efforts to recover from the pandemic.