Thirteen frontline and public-facing employees are facing charges for purchasing forged vaccination cards, as part of an Instagram scheme allegedly orchestrated by a New Jersey woman who goes by “AntiVaxMomma.”
Jasmine Clifford, a 31-year-old entrepreneur, was arrested on Tuesday for selling the falsified COVID-19 vaccinations cards to hundreds of people, including employees at hospitals, medical schools, and nursing homes, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
State police first became aware of the fakes in June, after discovering an Instagram account purportedly maintained by Clifford offering the cards for $200 each.
She allegedly worked with Nadayza Barkley, 27, an employee of a Long Island health clinic. Prosecutors stated that for an extra $250, Barkley would enter the buyers’ names into New York’s vaccine database — allowing purchasers to use the state’s Excelsior Pass to bypass vaccine restrictions.
Both Barkley and Clifford are facing felony and misdemeanor charges for their roles in the forgery scam. (Attorneys for the two women could not immediately be reached.)
In a video posted to Twitter, a man who claims to have uncovered the scam last month says he spoke with the woman, who said she was receiving upward of $10,000 per week.
The investigation also uncovered the 13 public-facing employees — including at least six New York City residents — who’d purchased the cards and now face felony charges of their own. Earlier this summer, the state lawmakers passed a bill clarifying that falsifying a vaccine card could result in up to a year of jail time, but former Governor Andrew Cuomo never signed it.
The takedown comes weeks after Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order requiring businesses to verify vaccination status for a host of in-person activities. All city employees are also required to get vaccinated or face weekly testing — with teachers subject to a full vaccination mandate.
Though nearly 77% of adults in New York City have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the rates remain much lower among municipal employees.
As additional vaccination requirements take effect, the market for forged cards appears to be growing. Earlier this week, the U.S. Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General warned of “increasing reports of individuals creating, purchasing, and using fake COVID-19 vaccination cards.”
In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance urged social media companies, including Facebook, to take further action to prevent the selling of fraudulent cards on their platforms.
“We will continue to safeguard public health in New York with proactive investigations like these,” Vance said, “but the stakes are too high to tackle fake vaccination cards with whack-a-mole prosecutions.”