Columbia woman indicted for producing fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, officials say
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Acting United States Attorney M. Rhett DeHart announced Thursday a Federal Grand Jury in Columbia returned a multiple-count indictment in connection with the production of fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination record cards.
This indictment marks the first of its kind in South Carolina.
Tammy McDonald, 53, was charged in a three-count indictment with two counts of producing fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards and one count of lying to federal investigators about her role in producing the cards.
“Although the indictment speaks for itself, creating fraudulent or fake vaccine cards for those who have not been vaccinated poses a direct threat to the health of the people of South Carolina,” Acting U.S. Attorney DeHart said.
Dehart also thanked federal and state partners for what he says was “quick work” acting on this matter. Dehart says the office will continue to prosecute fraud related to the Coronavirus in all its forms.
“The indictment alleges McDonald defrauded and endangered the public by creating and distributing fake COVID-19 vaccination cards. Engaging in such illegal activities undermines the ongoing pandemic response efforts,” Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General said.
Jackson says he remains committed to working with law enforcement partners to investigate individuals who are exploiting the pandemic for personal gain.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the FBI and its partners have been at the forefront of investigating crimes involving fraudulent COVID-19 schemes, according to officials.
“Producing fraudulent vaccination cards is a serious matter and is not taken lightly. Anyone leading or participating in this type of activity should know there will be consequences,” Susan Ferensic, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Columbia Field Office said.
The indictment alleges that McDonald, who worked as the Director of Nursing Services at a nursing center in Columbia, produced the fraudulent vaccine cards on June 20 and July 28.
The indictment further alleges that on October 22, McDonald was questioned by federal agents with HHS and FBI and also lied by stating she did not have access to COVID-19 vaccination record cards. McDonald also allegedly says she never produced a false or inaccurate vaccine card.
The indictment alleges this was false because she personally filled out vaccine cards for individuals she knew had not received a COVID-19 vaccine.
McDonald, who has pleaded not guilty on all three charges, was arraigned Thursday by a United States Magistrate Judge in Columbia. She was granted a $10,000 bond.
McDonald faces up to 15 years in prison for each count of producing a fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination card, and five years in prison for lying to federal investigators, according to officials.
The case was investigated by HHS and FBI, with assistance from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney Derek A. Shoemake, who also serves as the District’s Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator, is prosecuting the case.
Acting U.S. Attorney DeHart says all charges in the indictment are merely accusations and that McDonald is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
On May 17, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across the government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud.
The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts.
For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
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