A Los Angeles County contractor working at a local COVID-19 vaccine center has been accused of stealing hundreds of blank vaccination cards.
The office of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a Wednesday press release that it had charged 45-year-old Muhammad Rauf Ahmed with one felony count of grand theft.
According to the district attorney’s office, local officials in late April determined that vaccine cards had been stolen from the vaccine site in the California city of Pomona.
Ahmed allegedly stole more than 500 cards, which prosecutors noted have a value of $15 each if sold illegally.
It was unclear whether Ahmed had sold or intended to sell any of the vaccine cards, which are given to people who have received a dose of one of the coronavirus vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use in the U.S.
Gascón said in a statement Wednesday, “Selling fraudulent and stolen vaccine cards is illegal, immoral and puts the public at risk of exposure to a deadly virus.”
The district attorney’s office said that the case remains under investigation by the La Verne Police Department and that an arraignment hearing for Ahmed is scheduled for Aug. 25.
It was not immediately clear if Ahmed, a Las Vegas resident, has an attorney representing him in the case.
Local NBC affiliate KNBC reported that the contract worker was a nonclinical employee and was released on $500 bail Wednesday.
The charge comes as officials across the country have warned against the sale of fake vaccination cards.
While authentic cards from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are given to Americans for free when they get vaccinated, the FBI and law enforcement officials have reported cards being sold illegally on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Shopify, eBay and Etsy.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) said in April that officials were “seeing a huge market for these false cards online.”
Saoud Khalifah, the founder of Fakespot, said at the time that some cards are being obtained by those who don’t want to get the vaccine and that others are being obtained by those who want to make pharmacies think they have already received a first dose so they obtain a second.