The owner of a bar in Clements, California, has been arrested on suspicion of selling fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) said Wednesday.
Todd Anderson, 59, of Acampo, was taken into custody Tuesday and faces charges of altering a medical record, forgery of a public seal, identity theft and conspiracy, ABC told The Washington Times.
ABC said it had received a complaint about the cards being sold at Mr. Anderson’s establishment, The Old Corner Saloon, and subsequently dispatched undercover agents who successfully bought several.
“Distributing, falsifying or purchasing fake COVID-19 vaccine cards is against the law and endangers yourself and those around you,” said San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar.
Ms. Salazar, whose office is prosecuting the case, added “it is disheartening to have members in our community show flagrant disregard for public health” amid the ongoing pandemic.
ABC said it plans to take disciplinary action against The Old Corner Saloon, including potentially revoking its license, although local news outlets reported it will remain open in the meantime.
Efforts to reach Mr. Anderson for comment were not immediately successful. He was booked at the local county jail following his arrest, but his name is not listed online among its current inmates.
Luke Blehm, a spokesperson with ABC, said that at least eight customers had purchased the counterfeit vaccination cards at the bar for around $20 each, a local NBC affiliate reported this week.
A search of the bar Tuesday uncovered evidence including finished and unfinished vaccination cards, paper cutters and laminating machines, as well as an unregistered handful, the station reported.
Photos of the bogus cards, as shared online by local media, show they resemble legitimate ones given to people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Indeed, images of the counterfeit vaccination cards show they contain the logos of both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS).
The FBI and the HHS office of inspector general previously issued a joint public service announcement in March warning Americans not to buy or sell fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards.
“By misrepresenting yourself as vaccinated when entering schools, mass transit, workplaces, gyms or places of worship, you put yourself and others around you at risk of contracting COVID-19,” it said.
Clements is an unincorporated community in the Central Valley region of California, roughly 50 miles southeast of the state capital, Sacramento, and not far from the cities of Lodi and Stockton.
More than 107 million people in the U.S., or close to one-third of the nationwide population, has been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the latest numbers made available on the CDC website.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, finds it “very frustrating” some Americans are wary of being vaccinated against the coronavirus, he said in an interview Tuesday.
Speaking to late-night host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel, Dr. Fauci added that Americans should have a “societal responsibility” to help end the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic by getting vaccinated.