Dr. Michael Kirk Moore Jr., a 58 year old plastic surgeon in Midvale, Utah, along with three others were indicted by a federal grand jury on January 11th on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States by selling fake CDC COVID-19 vaccine cards. According to a press release from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) last week, Moore, along with his office manager, receptionist and a neighbor, have been charged with allegedly distributing almost 2,000 doses’ worth of falsified vaccination cards. Court records filed in the case allege that at least some were sold for $50 in cash. Prosecutors further allege that children were given fake vaccine injections of saline at the request of parents, presumably so that the child would think that they had been vaccinated if asked. The charges also allege that he and his co-conspirators fraudulently received free doses of vaccine that were distributed by the health department and destroyed these by squirting the syringes into a sink, but then recorded lot numbers on the cards to simulate an actual vaccination. These vaccines, which were valued at $28,000, were distributed to Moore’s medical practice with the intent that they be given to patients as part of public health efforts to curb the spread of the disease.
"By allegedly falsifying vaccine cards and administering saline shots to children instead of COVID-19 vaccines, not only did this provider endanger the health and well-being of a vulnerable population, but also undermined public trust and the integrity of federal health care programs,” said Curt L. Muller, Special Agent in Charge with the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) in a statement included in a DOJ press release on Wednesday, January 18th. "HHS-OIG remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable bad actors who attempt to illegally profit from the pandemic.”
The press release went on to quote Acting Special Agent in Charge Chris Miller of US Homeland Security, “This defendant allegedly used his medical profession to administer bogus vaccines to unsuspecting people, to include children, falsifying a sense of security.”
If the allegations are true, this would be a serious breach of professional ethics which could cost Moore his medical license. A quarry of Dr. Moore’s medical license on the Utah medical board’s website indicates that his license is currently “active”. However, it also reports that his license was stipulated, meaning that he received a sanction for wrongdoing or unprofessional conduct, on August 31, 2016, after he pleaded guilty in a District Court to two counts of submitting false or fraudulent insurance claims. The stipulation against his license was lifted 18 months later. Such stipulations usually are for a limited period generally lasting 1 to 3 years.
While this may become a high-profile case because it involves a physician, it is not the first time that healthcare practitioners have been charged with faking vaccination records. Two nurse practitioners on Long Island, Julie DeVuono, 49, and her employee, Marissa Urraro, 44, were arrested in February, 2022, and charged with allegedly selling fake COVID vaccination cards. They allegedly sold forged vaccination cards at $220 for adults and $85 for children, making some $1.5 million off the scheme which included entering false information into the New York immunization database. Similar to the allegations against Moore and his team, DeVuono received shipments of COVID vaccines from the New York health department for free which were meant to be given to her patients. Instead, she allegedly waisted the doses and then recorded the lot numbers on the CDC issued COVID vaccination cards that came with the vaccine shipments. When arrested, nearly $900,000 in cash was seized by law enforcement officers at DeVuono’s home. Both DeVuono and Urraro were released from custody after pleading not-guilty and are awaiting trial.
The black market for forged COVID vaccine cards really began in early 2021 after COVID vaccines were FDA approved followed by lawmakers and employers starting to require proof of vaccination. Some of the cards are simply forgeries, while others are genuine CDC issued cards that have been doctored with false information. Typical prices range from $50 to $200, with some scammers even offering to make fake entries into state and federal vaccine databases to make the card “registered”, which can bring as much as $750 per card.
It is hard to estimate just how many of these fake or forged cards are out there or how many scams are going on. With COVID restrictions relaxing, perhaps it doesn’t matter. However, one thing that does matter is that healthcare professionals, entrusted by society to uphold high standards of ethics, should not behave lawlessly and participate in illegal schemes like these regardless of their personal opinions regarding vaccines.