/California bar owner charged after allegedly selling fake Covid-19 vaccination cards

California bar owner charged after allegedly selling fake Covid-19 vaccination cards

A bar owner was arrested Wednesday over allegations that he was selling fake Covid-19 vaccination cards at his establishment in California.

Charges against Todd Anderson, 59, include identity theft, forging government documents, and falsifying medical records, according to a statement from San Joaquin District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar.

An investigation was opened after California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control received a complaint about fake cards being sold at the Old Corner Saloon in Clements, about 40 miles southeast of Sacramento.

Anderson was also found with a loaded unregistered firearm, a felony, during his arrest.

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

Vaccination cards are given to those who have received a Covid-19 inoculation with information regarding which vaccine brand they received, the lot number and the date of vaccination. The cards also have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention name printed on them.

Undercover agents with the department were able to buy the fraudulent cards multiple times at the Old Corner Saloon in April, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said. A number of the cards were found for distribution during a search warrant executed at the bar.

Anderson was released on bail Wednesday and is scheduled for an arraignment on May 18, the district attorney’s office said. It’s unclear if he has retained an attorney.

Two phone numbers listed for Anderson through public records were disconnected when NBC News attempted to reach out for comment. Anderson was not available when a call was placed to the Old Corner Saloon requesting to speak with him.

The FBI issued a public service announcement warning against the sale of fake Covid-19 vaccination cards in late March after they began to appear online. The agency also advised those who have had their vaccinations not to post photos of their cards on social media to avoid exposing their personal information.

Unauthorized use of a government agency’s seal is a crime, the announcement stated, and no one should buy or fill out fraudulent cards.

“By misrepresenting yourself as vaccinated when entering schools, mass transit, workplaces, gyms, or places of worship, you put yourself and others around you at risk of contracting COVID-19,” the FBI said.