(CHICAGO) — A Chicago-area pharmacist was convicted of stealing and selling COVID-19 vaccination cards, the Justice Department announced on Monday.
Tangtang Zhao, 36, of Chicago, stole CDC-issued COVID-19 vaccination cards from the pharmacy where he worked, and sold them to buyers across the country through an online marketplace, according to the DOJ.
“During a three-week timeframe in March and April 2021, Zhao posted listings for over 650 COVID-19 vaccination cards that he advertised as “authentic” and “straight from the CDC.” In total, he sold 630 cards to approximately 200 unique buyers, who paid Zhao more than $5,600,” according to a Justice Department press release.
A federal jury convicted Zhao on a dozen counts of theft of government property, according to the DOJ. At trial, the government showed eBay messages that were sent by Zhao to buyers of the fake vaccination card, court records show
Zhao’s lawyer Gal Pissetzky told ABC News in a statement that his client is “disappointed in the verdict” and plans to appeal.
“The COVID-19 blank vaccination cards were not government property, where the government did not maintain supervision and control over the cards once they were delivered to providers like Walgreens,” Pissetzky said. “The government had absolutely no supervision over the cards and did not control how the cards were handled.”
Zhao is slated to be sentenced on Nov. 28 and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, according to the DOJ.
The Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) told ABC News in August 2021 that it began receiving “increasing reports of individuals creating, purchasing and using fake COVID-19 vaccination cards,” cautioning the spread of bogus cards can leave victims’ personal identity vulnerable.
Employees and the owner of an upstate New York midwife practice were indicted on federal charges in April for allegedly running a fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination clinic, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York.
Between June 2021 and March 2022, Sage Femme Midwifery, located in Albany, created more than 2,600 false entries in the state’s vaccination database, and distributed fake COVID-19 vaccination cards from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to people who were not vaccinated, including individuals living in Brooklyn and Staten Island, according to court documents.
The FBI and HHS-OIG investigated the case involving Zhao.
ABC News’ Mary Kekatos, Alexander Mallin, Kaitlyn Folmer and Sasha Pezenik contributed to this report.
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