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It is now illegal in the state of New York to make or use a phony coronavirus vaccination card after Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation outlawing them on Wednesday.
Under the new law, anyone convicted of faking a COVID vax card is guilty of a class A misdemeanor punishable up to one year in jail or three years probation as well as a $1,000 fine.
In addition, the law creates a new computer-tampering felony regarding any intentional effort to alter information pertaining to coronavirus vaccine records, DailyMail.com reported.
In a statement, Hochul, who took over the office after disgraced Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned in August, said: “We need to make sure we learn the lessons of the pandemic so we don’t make the same mistakes twice.”
“These new laws will help us improve our response to the pandemic now, crack down on fraudulent use of vaccination records, and help us better understand the areas of improvement we need to make to our health care system so we can be even more prepared down the road,” she added.
Falsifying COVID vaccination records was already a federal crime, but the New York law gives state prosecutors another means of going after fake coronavirus records and vaccine cards.
“It’s never been more urgent that we protect this process from fraud so that the health and safety of the public isn’t compromised by bad actors using fraudulent vaccination cards or passports,’ said state Sen. Anna Kaplan, a Long Island Democrat and sponsor of the legislation that Hochul signed.
The lawmaker claimed that the current spike in virus infections from the omicron variant has made passage of the law more urgent.
Creating fake COVID vaccine cards was already a violation of federal law, but the FBI nevertheless issued a reminder to the public in March informing people of the statute, noting it is a crime to “replicate the unauthorized use of an official government agency’s seal, specifically the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seals.”
For months, phony vaccine cards were appearing on Etsy, eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, and other places, DailyMail.com notes. In April, a bipartisan group of 47 state attorneys general sent letters to the CEOs of those e-tailers and platforms demanding they take down ads and links selling the fake cards.
The Justice Department announced in July its first prosecution for the production of phony vaccination cards. Juli Mazi, a California neuropathic physician, was charged with a single count of wire fraud as well as one count of making a false statement involving healthcare issues.
In August, meanwhile, Chicago pharmacist TangTang Zao was arrested and charged with selling dozens of phony vaccine cards for $10 each.
“To put such a small price on the safety of our nation is not only an insult to those who are doing their part in the fight to stop COVID-19, but a federal crime with serious consequences,” Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. of the FBI Chicago Field Office said at the time.
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