NEW YORK -- Fifteen people were charged Tuesday in what the Manhattan District Attorney's office called a fake vaccine card conspiracy.
Among those charged is a woman who allegedly sold 250 fake cards on Instagram, believed to be among the first alleged seller of phony vaccine cards charged in the country.
Officials say 31-year-old Jasmine Clifford sold the forged cards over social media and worked with 27-year-old Nadayza Barkley to fraudulently enter at least 10 people into the New York State Immunization Information System database.
Thirteen people who purchased the cards -- all of whom are believed to work in frontline and essential-employee settings, including hospitals and nursing homes - were also charged.
According to court documents, Clifford, a self-described entrepreneur with several online businesses, advertised the fake vaccination cards through her Instagram account, @AntiVaxMomma, starting in May 2021. She allegedly charged $200 for the fake cards and accepted payments through CashApp or Zelle.
Authorities say for an additional $250 fee, Barkley, who works at a medical clinic in Patchogue, would enter the person's name into the NYSIIS database.
"We will continue to safeguard public health in New York with proactive investigations like these, but the stakes are too high to tackle fake vaccination cards with whack-a-mole prosecutions," said District Attorney Cy Vance. "We need companies like Facebook to take action to prevent the fraud happening on their platforms. Making, selling, and purchasing forged vaccination cards are serious crimes with serious public safety consequences. This investigation is ongoing. If you are aware of anyone selling fake vaccination cards, please call my Office's Financial Frauds Bureau at 212-335-8900."
Clifford is charged with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, Offering a False Instrument for Filing and Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree.
Barkley is charged with Offering a False Instrument for Filing and Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree.
The 13 alleged buyers are each charged with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument. One of the individuals is also charged with Offering a False Instrument for Filing for paying to be entered in the NYSIIS database.
"This is something we've never seen before, we've seen it in the dark web...we've never seen it just broadly offered to the general public like it is right now," said Fakespot CEO Saoud Khalifah.
Demand for the fake cards is soaring as more companies and venues are requiring proof of vaccination -- but buyer beware, handing over your personal information leaves you open to possibly identity theft.