Source: Department of Justice
A U.S. Marine Corps Reservist from New York who previously was arrested on charges related to participating in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot has been charged in a new case of conspiring to sell fake Covid-19 vaccination cards to fellow reservists, prosecutors said Thursday.
The reservist, 26-year-old Queens resident Jia Liu, is accused of conspiring with a nurse named Steven Rodriguez, 27, to defraud the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the fake card distribution scheme, according to prosecutors in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.
Liu separately is charged with providing these cards to Marine Corps reservists, thus defrauding the Defense Department.
The Defense Department previously ordered that all active and reserve military service members be vaccinated against Covid from August to January.
Liu’s alleged distribution of the fake cards to other Marin reservists helped them evade this requirement, prosecutors noted.
“By deliberately distributing fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards to the unvaccinated, the defendants put military and other communities at risk of contracting a virus that has already claimed nearly one million lives in this country,” stated U.S. Attorney Breon Peace.
“This Office remains committed to rooting out and prosecuting those individuals who threaten our public health and safety for profit.”
Prosecutors said the scheme led to more than 300 stolen or false vaccine cards circulating and created more than 70 false entries in immunization databases.
That allowed “unvaccinated individuals to receive the Excelsior Pass, which displays a user’s vaccination status in a digital app,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release.
The scheme allegedly ran from March 2021 through this month.
Prosecutors said Liu and Rodriguez, who worked in a Long Island clinic, “promoted their scheme through messages on encrypted messaging applications and on social media.”
“They referred to COVID-19 Vaccination Cards using code names, such as “gift cards,” “Cardi Bs,” “Christmas cards” and “Pokemon cards.”
Court documents say Lin bought blank vaccine cards, from Rodriguez, and then forged and distributed them to buyers and other co-conspirators for a profit.
Liu also told buyers to meet Rodriguez in person at the clinic where he works to buy fraudulent cards, documents say.
Source: Department of Justice
“Rodriguez would meet the buyer, but instead of administering the vaccine he destroyed a vial of vaccine intended to be used to vaccinate a patient,” prosecutors said.
“He then provided a forged COVID-19 Vaccination Card to the buyer that he completed to make it falsely appear that the buyer had received a dose of vaccine. He further made entries in the Immunization Databases falsely indicating that the buyer had been vaccinated.”
Liu was charged in October by federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C. for entering the Capitol grounds during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot, and other crimes connected to the invasion of the halls of Congress that day by a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump. The criminal complaint contains images of him in and around the Capitol that day.