September 13, 2021: COVID-scams around vaccines continue worldwide
Inside the U.S., authorities continue to confiscate fake COVID-19 vaccine cards and disrupt card-faking schemes for Americans who don't want the vaccine. This week the Vermont State Police announced that three now-former troopers are being investigated for violating federal law by making fake Covid-19 vaccination cards.
Meanwhile, counterfeiters are exploiting people overseas who are desperate to get the vaccine. At least three batches of counterfeit COVISHIELD vaccine have been identified in Africa and south-east Asia, and authorities in India and Zambia reported a wave of vaccine counterfeits.
The Biden Administration asked Congress to permanently classify illicit fentanyl and its analogs as a Schedule I substance.
In an effort to protect the more than 34 million Americans living with diabetes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission warned ten companies in California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Texas, and Washington to stop selling dietary supplements that fraudulently claim to treat, cure or prevent diabetes.
Ruben Mejia of Lawrence, Massachusetts pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in U.S. district court. Mejia admitted to selling 1,000 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl for $8,000 in August 2020, and was arrested on September 11, 2020 after he was found with another 5,000 of them.
The owners of a West Islip, New York toy company called Millennium Products Group (MPG) agreed to pay the state of Oklahoma $1 million in restitution for hoarding surgical masks and price gouging. In March and April 2020, MPG acquired surgical masks from China and sold more than a million of them to the state of Oklahoma, among others, with markups as high as 900 percent. The defendants also face up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Kenneth Zipperer of Wausau, Wisconsin received a six-month prison sentence and will pay more than $150,000 in fines and restitution for importing and dispensing non-FDA approved drugs from India to clients of his insurance company.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the International Mail Facility at Chicago O’Hare reported seizing 19 counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards on their way from China to a residential address in Wapakoneta, Ohio.
Jessica Renae Green of Caldwell, Idaho received a 70-month federal prison sentence for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Law enforcement found almost 30 pounds of illicit drugs, including several thousand fentanyl pills in her home in March 2021.
Police in Bismarck, North Dakota arrested two people and confiscated a cache of fentanyl pills, ecstasy pills and more than $32,000 in cash in a hotel room.
Grand Forks, North Dakota police warned residents that they had been seeing more counterfeit oxycodone pills that contain fentanyl.
39-year-old Jose L. Casablanca of Lynwood, Washington received a 10-year federal prison sentence for gun and drug trafficking. He and co-conspirator Jessie N. Cruz, who received a seven-year sentence in April, were arrested in July 2020 after they sold undercover detectives firearms and narcotics—including fentanyl pills. Casablanca and Cruz had substantial quantities of fentanyl powder in their Lynwood home, and were seeking access to a pill press the day they were arrested.
Lori Carpenter and Carol Schweigert, Skagit County, Washington residents who lost their sons to counterfeit pills made with fentanyl, are working to raise awareness about the threat fentanyl poses to Americans.
Canadian mounties in Manitoba warned people on the Bunibonibee Cree Nation and Shamattawa First Nation that greenish pills that resembled oxycodone had caused a wave of poisonings and deaths.
As part of a larger effort to dismantle a counterfeit drug network, law enforcement in Delhi, India arrested four people and seized 141 boxes of counterfeit cancer medication.