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Authorities: Fake vaccination cards sold at California bar -

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The owner of a Northern California bar where authorities say made-to-order fake COVID-19 vaccination cards were sold to undercover state agents for $20 each was arrested in what officials call the first such foiled operation they are aware of nationwide.

The plainclothes agents from California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said they were told at the Old Corner Saloon in Clements to write their names and birthdates on Post-it notes and then watched as employees cut the cards, filled in identifying information and bogus vaccination dates and laminated the finished products.

“On the back where they put the two dates when you were vaccinated, they used two different color pens to make it look like it was two different times,” supervising agent Luke Blehm said Friday. “So they went to some effort to make it look authentic.”

Vaccination cards are being used in some places as a pass for people to attend large gatherings. The European Union is considering allowing in tourists who can prove they have been vaccinated.

In California, officials have allowed venue operators to offer easier access to people with proof of vaccination. That includes preferential access to large events such as concerts and sporting events and allowing venues to create vaccinated-only sections where social distancing requirements are not as strict.

Acting on an anonymous tip to the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, four undercover agents went to the bar several times in April and bought four fake laminated vaccination cards, officials said.

They also reported seeing at least eight others buy fake cards, but haven’t uncovered how many were sold.

They returned to the small-town bar this week and arrested its owner. Agents said they found another two completed cards and 30 additional blank cards along with a laminator and cutting device.

“This is such a new case. We looked for some other guidance from other cases around the country and we haven’t been able to find one like this at all,” Blehm said.

Fake cards have been advertised on social media and online sales platforms, he said, prompting the California attorney general’s office to send cease and desist warnings to those entities.

But it’s the first example he’s found of someone selling cards out of a bar.

With just one such report so far, California law enforcement and regulatory agencies said Friday that they’re not mounting the kind of sustained task force approach they used last summer to make sure business owners were following safety guidelines designed to slow the spread of the .

“If we see this, we’ll do an investigation and take action on it,” Blehm said. “This is on the radar, but this is the only one we know of so far.”

Other federal and state authorities in California said they’ve not seen similar counterfeit operations.

But federal, state and local officials on a joint task force that looks for criminal activities are keeping a watchful eye, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the state Office of Emergency Services.

“They actively are looking for stuff like this,” he said. ”They’re looking for folks that are doing things like selling or fraudulent vaccines on the open market, vaccine cards.”

The FBI and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general in late March warned the public “to be aware of individuals selling fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards and encouraging others to print fake cards at home.” That notice also warned of internet-based sales.

It wasn’t immediately known if the bar owner, Todd Anderson, has an attorney who can speak on his behalf. No one answered the phone at the bar Friday.

Anderson was arrested on suspicion of three felonies, including , forging government documents and possession of an unregistered firearm. He also is accused of falsifying medical records, a misdemeanor.

“It is disheartening to have members in our community show flagrant disregard for public in the midst of a pandemic,″ San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said in a statement. “Distributing, falsifying or purchasing fake COVID-19 vaccine cards is against the law and endangers yourself and those around you.”

California officials also are also pursuing disciplinary action against the bar.

———

Associated Press writer Olga R. Rodriguez contributed to this story from San Francisco.


加利福尼亚州萨克拉门托市——一家北加州酒吧的老板被逮捕,官方称这是他们在全国范围内所知的第一次此类挫败行动。该酒吧的老板说,定做的假COVID-19疫苗卡以每张20美元的价格卖给了州特工。

加州酒精饮料控制部的便衣特工说,他们在克莱门茨的老街角酒馆被要求在便条上写下自己的名字和生日,然后看着员工剪卡片,填写身份信息和假疫苗接种日期,并将成品层压。

“在你接种疫苗时,他们把两个日期放在背面,他们用两支不同颜色的笔让它看起来像是两个不同的时间,”监督探员卢克·布莱姆(Luke Blehm)周五说所以他们努力使它看起来真实。”

一些地方正在使用疫苗接种卡作为人们参加大型集会的通行证。欧盟正在考虑允许能证明自己接种过疫苗的游客入境。

在加利福尼亚州,官方允许场馆运营商更方便地接触有疫苗接种证明的人。这包括优先进入大型活动,如音乐会和体育赛事,并允许场馆建立只接种疫苗的部分,社会距离的要求没有那么严格。

官员们说,根据向圣华金县警长办公室提供的匿名举报,4名便衣特工在4月份多次前往该酒吧,并购买了4张假层压疫苗接种卡。

他们还报告说,至少有8人购买了假卡,但没有发现有多少人被出售。

他们本周返回小镇酒吧,逮捕了酒吧老板。特工说,他们又发现了两张完整的卡片和30张空白卡片,以及一个层压机和切割装置。

“这真是个新案子。布莱姆说:“我们从全国各地的其他案例中寻找了一些其他的指导,但我们根本找不到这样的指导。”。

他说,在社交媒体和在线销售平台上,假卡已经登上广告,促使加州总检察长办公室向这些实体发出停止使用的警告。

但这是他第一次发现有人在酒吧外卖卡片。

迄今为止只有一份这样的报告,加州执法和监管机构周五表示,他们没有采取去年夏天那种持续的特别工作组方法,以确保企业主遵守旨在减缓疫情蔓延的安全准则。

“如果我们看到这一点,我们将进行调查并采取行动,”布莱姆说这是雷达上发现的,但这是我们目前所知的唯一一个。”

加州其他联邦和州当局表示,他们还没有看到类似的假冒行动。

但是联邦、州和地方官员在一个寻找犯罪活动的联合特遣部队中保持着警惕,州紧急服务办公室发言人布莱恩·弗格森说。

“他们正在积极寻找这样的东西,”他说他们正在寻找那些在公开市场上销售或欺诈疫苗、疫苗卡的人。”

美国联邦调查局(FBI)和美国卫生与公共服务部(U.S.Department of Health and Human Services)监察长3月下旬警告公众“注意个人出售假COVID-19疫苗接种记录卡,并鼓励其他人在家打印假卡。”该通知还警告了基于互联网的销售。

目前还不知道酒吧老板托德·安德森是否有一位律师可以代表他发言。星期五酒吧里没人接电话。

安德森因涉嫌伪造政府文件和持有未注册枪支等三项重罪被捕。他还被指控伪造病历,这是一种轻罪。

圣华金县地方检察官托里·韦伯·萨拉扎在一份声明中说:“在一场大流行中,我们社区的成员公然无视公众,这令人沮丧。”分发、伪造或购买假COVID-19疫苗卡是违法的,会危及你自己和你周围的人。”

加州官员也在对律师协会进行纪律处分。

———

美联社记者奥尔加R。罗德里格斯在旧金山为这个故事做了贡献。

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