August 16, 2021: Fake vaccine card sellers up 257% on Telegram

Check Point Software Technologies reports that the number of sellers advertising fake vaccination cards on the messenger app Telegram has spiked 257 percent since March 2021. Widespread fraud like this endangers people all over the world and worries college administrators who are requiring staff and students to show proof of vaccination when they return to campuses this fall.

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Data from the National Emergency Medical Services Information System shows that drug-related 911 calls involving people under the age of 20 spiked 43 percent in 2020. Results of some of those calls were tragic: 13-year-old Luca Manuel, for example, was found dead in Redding, California in August 2020 after taking a counterfeit painkiller made of fentanyl that he had purchased online.

Fake vaccine ad (Source: Check Point Software Technologies

Pacific West

Border Patrol agents arrested two U.S. citizens smuggling alpazolam (generic Xanax) into the country.

Aumontae Wayne Smith received a 70-month prison sentence for distributing counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl in and around Portland, Oregon. Smith also purchased firearms that were linked to 17 different shootings in the Portland area between April and December 2020.

In Oregon, the Multnomah County Health Department reported that emergency medical services calls about non-fatal drug poisonings tripled at the same time area law enforcement seized 105,000 counterfeit pills believed to contain fentanyl in late July.

Border patrol agents in the El Centro Sector of California arrested two people smuggling approximately 24,930 pills of alprazolam (the generic form of Xanax) through an immigration checkpoint.

Napa, California residents Mona and Mark Leonardi founded the Michael Leonardi Foundation to increase awareness about fentanyl in the Napa area after they lost their 20-year-old son Michael in February 2020 to a counterfeit Percocet.

Mountain West

Police in Pocatello, Idaho discovered 10,000 suspected fentanyl pills from the car of an Arizona man while performing a wellness check.

​​Police seized more than 4,700 fentanyl pills during a multi-drug bust in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The Montana Highway Patrol reported that officers had seized over 4,500 fentanyl pills from vehicles in 2020.

Matt and Shelly Riviere of Monument, Colorado shared the loss of their sons Stephen and Andrew to fake oxycodone they took at a party in July.


Lorenzo Brabo of Lake Orion, Michigan pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Brabo provided the fake Percocet pills that he took with three Rochester Hills residents in July 2020. Officers were able to revive Brabo, but 17-year-old Sophia Harris, Caleb Kiessling, 18, and Kyler Kiessling, 20, died of fentanyl poisoning.

Police arrested a 28-year-old man and seized hundreds of counterfeit pills suspected to contain fentanyl during the search of a residence and vehicle in Davenport, Iowa.


The Stamford case is a perfect example of why PSM supports permanently scheduling fentanyl analogues. Watch to learn why.

Stamford, Connecticut resident Arber Isaku pleaded guilty to manufacturing and distributing counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl analogues. PSM summarized the case when Isaku’s co conspirator, Vincent Decaro, pleaded guilty in June.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania resident Sherry Jo Matt shared the story of her 21-year-old daughter Siena who died of fentanyl poisoning after taking a counterfeit Percocet in September 2020.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Laredo, Texas seized over 8500 pills of controlled medicine—carisoprodol, Valium, Ritalin and Xanax—that an American citizen tried to bring into the U.S. from Mexico. These amounts far exceed the 90-day supply permitted--with a prescription--by federal law.

Law enforcement arrested a Chicago, Illinois man and a Louisville, Kentucky man in Radcliff, Kentucky after they received a package that contained 216 grams of counterfeit pills made with fentanyl. A search of their residence turned up more fentanyl and other drugs.

Two Nelson County, Kentucky men face drug charges after state police seized more than 3,000 counterfeit pills that tested positive for fentanyl during a traffic stop of their car in Eastview.

Claiborne Parish, Louisiana constable William Earl Maddox pleaded guilty to misbranding drugs after he used two websites to sell “natural” male enhancement supplements that contained illegally imported, undeclared sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra.

CBP officers in Memphis, Tennessee have seized hundreds of counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards on their way from Shenzhen, China to different U.S. cities.

Christopher A. Parris of Lawrenceville, Georgia pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs and at least eight other companies by offering to sell PPE, including 3M-brand N95 respirator masks, when he did not have access to them. The proceeds of the scheme totaled approximately $6,200,000.

William Earl Maddox lied about the contents of the pills he sold. (Image source: Wayback Machine)


German authorities asked thousands of people in the Friesland area to be revaccinated after a police investigation found that a Red Cross nurse may have injected them with saline solution rather than genuine COVID-19 vaccines.

Scammers have contacted authorities in the Netherlands, Latvia, France, Israel, the Czech Republic, Austria, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Canada and Spain soliciting fake contracts to supply COVID-19 vaccines.

In Nigeria, the Lagos State Ministry of Health shut down 20 pharmacies that were found to be selling unapproved and expired medicines.