Two Long Island women have been charged with forging COVID-19 vaccination cards in a scheme that racked up $1.5 million in profits—$900,000 of which was seized by law enforcement officers during a home search. Nurses Julie DeVuono, 49, and Marissa Urraro, 44, of Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare, were arrested last Thursday and charged with second-degree forgery. DeVuono, a nurse practitioner and owner of the clinic, was additionally charged with offering a false instrument for filing.
So, how did the two women operate the scheme? Using legitimate vaccination cards issued by the New York State Department of Health, DeVuono and Urraro distributed fake vaccination cards for a fee, meaning patients could use the documents to prove they were vaccinated without receiving a dose. The nurses then added the records into the New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS), falsely documenting that these individuals were vaccinated.
Between November 2021 to January 2022, the women were allegedly charging $220 per adult and $85 per child for the forged vaccination cards. However, the money-making scheme came to an end when a detective went undercover and was issued a forged card without actually receiving a dose of the vaccine. According to CBS New York, local business owners near Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare grew suspicious of the clinic after noticing unusual amounts of foot traffic in the area.
“As nurses, these two individuals should understand the importance of legitimate vaccination cards as we all work together to protect public health,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison in a statement. Both women were arraigned on Friday morning, entering a plea of not guilty. They are set to appear in a county district court on Tuesday, February 8. Urraro’s attorney, Michael J. Alber, said in a statement to the New York Daily News: “An accusation should not overshadow the good work Ms. Urraro has done for children and adults in the medical field.” Their arrest has been met with mixed responses, with anti-vaccine supporters hailing the women as “heroes” for giving people the choice to refuse “shots they strongly oppose,” while others argued that the scheme was less “heroic” and more of a “hustle”, as they charged clients for the forged documents. (To say nothing of how dangerous it is for people to pretend to be vaccinated during a global public health crisis.)
What’s more, DeVuono’s police officer husband Derin DeVuono is currently being investigated by the Police department’s Internal Affairs Bureau in connection with his potential involvement with his wife’s fake vaccine card scheme, according to the New York Daily News.
Over the past two years, a string of crimes designed to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic has arisen. These crimes include the sale of counterfeit personal protective equipment, fraudulent loan applications and insurance claims, and sadly, predators targeting children attending school online. According to the Department of Justice, 474 people have been publicly charged with criminal offenses relating to fraud schemes connected to COVID-19. Those carrying out fraudulent pandemic-related schemes had made more than $569 million.