Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

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Many Americans desperately want their lives to return to normal as soon as possible. Some are willing to do just about anything to make that happen, even if they end up committing a crime. (Desperate times call for desperate measures.) Two defendants in Michigan have been charged for their separate schemes related to producing and selling Covid-19 Vaccination Record Cards. (You knew it was bound to happen.)

Bethann Kierczak, 37, of Southgate, Mich., is charged with theft of government property and theft or embezzlement related to a healthcare benefit program. According to the complaint, the registered nurse is responsible for stealing or embezzling authentic Covid-19 Vaccination Record Cards from the VA hospital.

Apparently, Kierczak’s scheme, which launched as early as May this year, involved the use of vaccine lot numbers she stole for the purpose of making the cards appear legitimate. (She probably figured that no one would be checking said lot numbers.) Then, primarily through Facebook Messenger, she sold the information to individuals within the metro Detroit community at $150 to $200 per fraudulent vaccine card. (Fraudsters are criminal opportunists. They’ll take any opportunity to steal anything at any time to victimize anyone, just so they can make a few bucks.)

Rapheal Jarrell Smiley, 32, of Detroit is charged with fraud involving department or agency seals, identity document fraud, and trafficking in counterfeit goods. According to the complaint, Smiley conducted a fraudulent scheme to import and sell or otherwise distribute fraudulent Covid-19 Vaccination Record Cards. (Supposedly, he ordered the cards from two shippers in China, which were previously identified by law enforcement as importers of fake Covid-19 Vaccination Record Cards.) Smiley sold the cards on his Facebook and Instagram social media accounts.

It’s important to note that a complaint is not evidence of guilt, only a charge. Once the investigations are complete for these two separate cases, a determination will be made as to whether to seek felony indictments.

The Attorney General established the Covid-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to help combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. (I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. There’s definitely more Covid-19 fraud lurking beneath the surface.) If you have any information about allegations of attempted fraud involving Covid-19, report it to the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Two Defendants Charged in Separate, Covid-19 Vaccination Record Card Frauds,” dated September 29, 2021.

DETROIT – Two defendants have been charged via criminal complaint for their roles in separate frauds related to Covid-19 Vaccination Record Cards, announced Acting United States Attorney Saima S. Mohsin.

Joining in the announcement were Gavin McClaren, Acting Special Agent in Charge, VA-OIG, Central Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) – Chicago Region and Vance R. Callender, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) field offices in Michigan and Ohio.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.