Julie DeVuono and Marissa Urraro, two nurses in Long Island, NY, were arrested and charged on Saturday with issuing fake vaccination cards and entering falsified information into the state’s database. According to the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, they made over $1.5 million in the scheme.
The two New York nurses were arraigned on Friday, according to The New York Times, when they were each charged with one count of second-degree forgery.
Julie DeVuono, the 49-year-old owner of Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare in Amityville, NY, allegedly charged $220 for fake vaccine cards, and $85 for children. Her employee Marissa Urraro, 44, was roped into the scheme, though DeVuono received an extra charge of offering her a false instrument for filing.
Michael Alber, Marissa Urraro’s lawyer, entered a plea of not guilty. A representative for Julie DeVuono has yet to speak about the accusations against them.
“We look forward to highlighting the legal impediments and defects in this investigation,” Michael Alber said. “An accusation should not overshadow the good work Ms. Urraro has done for children and adults in the medical field.”
According to prosecutors, the two women provided a fake vaccination card to an undercover detective who was not administered a Covid-19 vaccination upon their visit. After searching DeVuono’s home, they found a ledger of transactions detailing the scheme and over $900,000 in cash. According to documents kept in the nurses’ ledger, the two allegedly made over $1.5 million in the three-month span between November 2021 and their arrest at the end of January 2022.
“I hope this sends a message to others who are considering gaming the system that they will get caught and that we will enforce the law to the fullest extent,” Suffolk County district attorney Raymond A. Tierney said in an official statement.
“As nurses,” Suffolk County police commissioner Rodney K. Harrison added, “these two individuals should understand the importance of legitimate vaccination cards as we all work together to protect public health.”
According to CBS News, business owners near DeVuono’s Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare Clinic were becoming skeptical of the foot traffic the past couple of weeks.
An anti-vaccination parent’s rally was held in Long Island just a week before their arraignment, with many parents taking their children out of school to protest Covid-19 vaccination mandates and indoor mask policies.
The New York Daily News also reported that Julie DeVuono’s husband, Derin DeVuono, is also being investigated in the fake vaccine cards plot. He currently serves as an active New York Police Department officer and was questioned by the state’s Internal Affairs Bureau.
“The proliferation of fake Covid-19 vaccination cards can jeopardize efforts to address the ongoing public health emergency,” said Yvonne Gamble, a spokeswoman for the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Therefore, we encourage the public to obtain valid proof of Covid-19 vaccination from their administering medical providers instead of creating fake vaccination cards or purchasing them from unauthorized sources,” she continued.
Right before the holidays, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill into law that criminalized fake vaccination cards.
“We need to make sure we learn the lessons of the pandemic so we don’t make the same mistakes twice,” Hochul stated. “These new laws will help us improve our response to the pandemic now, crack down on fraudulent use of vaccination records, and help us better understand the areas of improvement we need to make to our health care system.”