Two Long Island nurses made more than $1.5 million in fake vaccine card scheme, prosecutors say
By Amanda Holpuch
Two nurses on Long Island are accused of collecting more than $1.5 million by selling forged COVID-19 vaccination cards, according to the Suffolk County district attorney’s office.
The nurses, Julie DeVuono, who owns Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare in Amityville, and Marissa Urraro, her employee, sold fake vaccination cards and entered false information into New York’s immunization database, prosecutors said. They charged $220 for forged cards for adults and $85 for children, according to the district attorney’s office.
DeVuono, 49, and Urraro, 44, were arraigned Friday, each charged with one count of second-degree forgery. DeVuono was also charged with one count of offering a false instrument for filing.
Michael Alber, Urraro’s lawyer, said she had entered a plea of not guilty and had been released without bail.
“We look forward to highlighting the legal impediments and defects in this investigation,” Alber said. “An accusation should not overshadow the good work Ms. Urraro has done for children and adults in the medical field.”
DeVuono’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.
During the arraignment Friday, prosecutors accused the women of forging a vaccine card for an undercover detective, even though the vaccine had not been administered.
Prosecutors said law enforcement officers searched DeVuono’s home and seized about $900,000 in cash and a ledger that suggested they made $1.5 million in the scheme from November to January.
“I hope this sends a message to others who are considering gaming the system that they will get caught and that we will enforce the law to the fullest extent,” the Suffolk County district attorney, Raymond A. Tierney, said in a statement.
Rodney K. Harrison, the Suffolk County police commissioner, said in a statement, “As nurses, these two individuals should understand the importance of legitimate vaccination cards as we all work together to protect public health.”
Nurses in South Carolina and Michigan have also faced charges for vaccine card forgery in recent months.
In December, a nurse in Columbia, South Carolina, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of making fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of South Carolina. In September, a nurse at a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Michigan was charged with stealing authentic vaccination cards from the hospital and reselling them, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Yvonne Gamble, a spokesperson for the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said schemes involving forged vaccination cards, like the one on Long Island, damaged efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
“The proliferation of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards can jeopardize efforts to address the ongoing public health emergency,” Gamble said. “Therefore, we encourage the public to obtain valid proof of COVID-19 vaccination from their administering medical providers instead of creating fake vaccination cards or purchasing them from unauthorized sources.”