WASHINGTON — A pharmacist from Chicago was arrested and charged on Tuesday for allegedly selling 125 authentic Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 vaccination cards on eBay, according to the Department of Justice.
Court documents claimed that in March and April of 2021, 34-year-old Tangtang Zhao sold real CDC Vaccination Record Cards to about 11 different buyers for $10 per card.
Zhao is a licensed pharmacist in Illinois, according to the Department of Justice. He worked at Company 1, which distributes and administers coronavirus vaccines at locations across the country, where he gained access to the vaccine cards.
The Department of Justice said Zhao made his first court appearance on Tuesday and faces 12 counts of theft of government property. If convicted, he faces a sentence of 10 years in prison per count.
“Knowingly selling COVID vaccination cards to unvaccinated individuals puts millions of Americans at risk of serious injury or death,” said Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office.
He added: “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.”
The special agent in charge of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Lamont Pugh III, said in a statement, "Fraudsters who engage in such unlawful conduct undermine efforts to address the pandemic and profit at the public’s expense. The health and safety of the public is our top priority, and we encourage people to obtain vaccination cards from their administering medical providers.”
On Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer demanded that federal law enforcement officials crackdown on fake COVID-19 vaccination cards being sold online.
Schumer is demanding U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the FBI team up with officials from the Department of Health and Human Services to launch a crackdown on the counterfeit cards and start a campaign to make clear that forging the cards could land people in federal prison.
He also wants the Justice Department to immediately prioritize cases involving fake vaccine cards and is pushing for Customs and Border Protection to work harder to find counterfeit cards being sent from overseas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.