A self-described “anti-vax momma” from New Jersey allegedly helped sell phony COVID-19 vaccination cards on the Internet to front line health care and essential workers in New York City for hundreds of dollars a piece, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Jasmine Clifford, 31, of Lyndhurst, NJ allegedly dealt 250 forged cards through her Instagram account, and employed Nadayza Barkley, 27, of Bellport, Long Island to fraudulently enter phony vaccine data for at least 10 individuals on the state immunization database, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.
Clifford and Barkley were charged on Aug. 31 in Manhattan Criminal Court along with 13 individuals who purchased the phony cards. Vance pointed out that many of those accused of buying the fake vaccination cards are front line healthcare workers, including some employed in hospitals or nursing homes.
Peddling fake COVID-19 cards online has become something of a dangerous cottage industry complicating the country’s efforts to end the pandemic. Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for greater federal action to take down the online dealers who cater to vaccine-hesitant individuals or anti-vaxxers who may buy the cards in an effort to get around private business or government vaccination mandates.
“We need companies like Facebook to take action to prevent the fraud happening on their platforms,” Vance said in a statement Tuesday. “Making, selling and purchasing forged vaccination cards are serious crimes with serious public safety consequences.”
According to the criminal complaint, Clifford — who went by her Instagram handle @AntiVaxMomma (the account has since been deleted) — allegedly began selling the forged cards through her Instagram account in May of this year.
Typically, prosecutors said, she peddled the phony documents to buyers for $200 a piece, accepting payments through CashApp or Zelle. For an extra $50, she offered customers to have their information fraudulently entered in the state’s immunization database.
For that part of the scheme, the criminal complaint noted, Clifford allegedly enlisted the services of Barkley, who works at a medical clinic in Patchogue, Long Island. Barkley allegedly entered information into the database fraudulently for no fewer than 10 of Clifford’s customers.
Clifford and Barkley were each charged with first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and fifth-degree conspiracy. Clifford was additionally charged with second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument.
If convicted, Clifford faces up to 7 years in prison, while Barkley faces up to 4 years behind bars.
Additionally, the 13 fake card buyers charged on Tuesday were booked on a count of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, and also face up to 7 years in prison if convicted.
Vance urged anyone who knows of individuals selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards to contact his office’s Financial Frauds Bureau at 212-335-8900.