A Chicago-based pharmacist was arrested on Tuesday after prosecutors said he illegally sold more than 100 Covid vaccine cards on eBay, as calls for crackdowns on fake and illicit vaccination cards grow.
According to the Justice Department, 34-year-old Tangtang Zhao was a licensed pharmacist with access to authentic CDC Covid vaccination cards, which he sold online for about $10 a card.
Prosecutors say Zhao sold 125 authentic vaccine cards online in 12 different transactions between March 25 and April 11, with sales totaling more than $1,000.
Zhao is facing up to 120 years in prison for the illegal sales, since each of the 12 counts of theft of government property he’s been indicted with carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Zhao had entered a plea, and a request for comment from Forbes was not returned.
“Knowingly selling COVID vaccination cards to unvaccinated individuals puts millions of Americans at risk of serious injury or death,” said Emmerson Buie Jr. of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office. “To put such a small price on the safety of our nation is not only an insult to those who are doing their part in the fight to stop COVID-19, but a federal crime with serious consequences.”
Zhao’s booking is now the latest in a series of arrests related to fake, forged or illicitly obtained Covid vaccination cards. Last week, two tourists were arrested at Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye Airport after they allegedly used fake vaccine cards to try to get past coronavirus restrictions in Hawaii, while a California-based naturopathic medical practitioner was arrested on July 14 for allegedly giving out pills she falsely claimed would provide lifelong Covid-19 immunity and filling out forged Covid vaccine cards, in what’s believed to be the first arrest related to Covid vaccine cards. Fake vaccine cards also appear to be flooding into the U.S. from outside the country. Federal agents on Friday uncovered thousands of fake vaccine cards in Memphis, Tennessee, that appeared to have been originated in China, and were bound for shipping all around the United States. Concerns are also growing over fake vaccine cards becoming more common around the U.S. as some cities start requiring vaccination proof for indoor activities like dining at restaurants and more businesses put vaccine mandates in place for their workers.
What To Watch For
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is calling for a federal crackdown on fake vaccine cards, urging the FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Health and Human Services to launch a campaign targeting fake vaccine cards.
On Monday, New Orleans became the first U.S. city to enact a Covid vaccine mandate for many public, indoor activities, like dining at restaurants. New York City joined by enacting a similar vaccine mandate on Tuesday. A vaccine mandate will also take effect in San Francisco on Friday.