Feds: Detroit nurse allegedly stole vaccination cards, sold them on Facebook
Federal prosecutors have arrested and charged two individuals for selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards.
Bethann Kierczak, 37, of Southgate is accused of stealing blank vaccine cards from the Detroit VA health care system, where she worked as a nurse, and selling the cards on Facebook for $150 to $200. She said she was using the money to pay for a child’s orthodontist bills, according to transcripts of those Facebook messages provided by prosecutors.
According to the criminal complaint, a “Confidential Source” (CS) tipped off the Detroit VA Police Services in August that Kierczak, a registered nurse, was “forging and selling CDC marked COVID-19 vaccination cards she stole [from the VA] to veterans and non-veterans for profit.”
The source also provided copies of their Facebook Messenger conversations with Kierczak from May and June as evidence. Portions of those conversations are included in the charging documents, and show the confidential source repeatedly pushing Kierczak to get the vaccination cards.
On May 22, 2021:
CS: “If you don’t forget to grab me about 10 of those things.. cough cough”
[winking emoji] Ya know”
KIERCZAK: “I am here, I will do my best, this pharmacist seems to be a little
protective of the cards, lol”
CS: “Ok lol”
KIERCZAK: “But if I can’t today I will have more chances through next
CS: “That’s cool I just wanted one for [Individual-1]”
KIERCZAK: “I will get em”
And on June 3, 2021:
CS: “Can you get me just ONE of them damn vaccination cards.”
CS wrote: “Ok. [Individual-2]’s bugging me asking if I know anyone, I said I’d
ask around. Apparently his baby momma has a PPO against him, but her aunt
said if he has the vaccination then she will bring the kids to him so he can see
KIERCZAK: “Ok, I can get him one, I need his first and last name and birthdate,
I will fill it out.”
KIERCZAK: “So the dates need to be current?”
KIERCZAK: “Like last month?”
CS: “I’ll ask”
KIERCZAK: “Is that the store number after the word [sic] Wallgreens?”
CS: “I think so”
KIERCZAK: “Ok” Tell him I charge $150 for these, so he owes you a favor.
CS: “Damn have u actually been selling them?”
KIERCZAK: “[Individual-3]’s mom has a friend who wanted 12, I charged him
$100 each, I gave her $200”
“Pain [sic] for [minor-1]’s orthodontist treatment well the down payment...”
In August, the confidential source again contacted Kierczak, this time at the direction of law enforcement. Those officers also had the source tape calls and an in-person conversation with Kierczak at the source’s home. Ultimately, Kierczak allegedly gave the source one blank vaccination card at no cost in August, and then another five cards in September for $1,000. Kierczak gave $300 of that back to the confidential source as a kickback, prosecutors claim, and asked, “if they had anyone else interested and stated ‘it’s ok if not cause I’ve got a couple more people who want some, too.’”
If convicted, both charges against Kierczak carry up to 10 years in prison, and/or a fine. Federal prosecutors said Kierczak had appeared in court Wednesday afternoon, but did not know whether she had retained counsel or who was representing her. Calls to phone numbers listed as Kierczak’s landline and cell phone went unanswered, as did a message on Facebook. A voicemail and email to the Detroit VA health care system were not immediately answered either.
Fake vaccination cards allegedly imported from China to Detroit
In a separate case, Rapheal Jarrell Smiley of Detroit was charged with fraud and trafficking in counterfeit goods, after allegedly having fake COVID vaccine cards shipped in from China. Customs agents intercepted three packages each containing about 50 fraudulent cards, according to the charging documents. A Facebook account believed to be Smiley’s (“Detroit’s Own Rapheal Smiley”) appeared to be advertising the cards, with captions like “Hit Me Up” and “GOING FAST FEW LEFT.”
In text messages that federal agents say were sent from Smiley’s phone, he told a contact to come pick up the cards from him. In a conversation from August 5, 2021, Smiley remarked on how widely available the actual vaccine had become, according to the criminal complaint:
SMILEY: “LOL my moms Went to CVS...I went to get some Milk for cereal last week they was at the grocery store giving out the shot.”
[Unknown:] “Damn that’s crazy.”
SMILEY: “Yea it is I’m just like ok cool.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. District Attorney’s office said Smiley had appeared in court Wednesday, but did not yet know whether he had retained counsel or who his lawyer is. A Facebook message sent to an account believed to be his was not immediately answered. The account listed Smiley as residing in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Prosecutors say even a few fake cards “put everyone at risk”
So why is the federal government prosecuting two individuals for what appeared to amount to, at most, allegedly importing 150 fake vaccination cards on Smiley’s part, and stealing six vaccination cards from the VA by Kierczak? Why not focus law enforcement efforts on larger criminal networks involved in selling fraudulent vaccination cards?
Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Saima S. Mohsin, said these are just two of multiple ongoing investigations in fake vaccine cards.
“While there are a number of folks who have made the choice not to become vaccinated, to hold yourself out to be vaccinated with a fake or fraudulent card really poses a significant risk to the public,” Mohsin said Wednesday. “Across the nation, we have various employers, the governments of various states, the federal government, that are instituting requirements that people be vaccinated....And so when you present a card that is fake, you're basically putting everyone at risk. And so it's very serious conduct.
“And in the case of Bethann Kierczak, she's a registered nurse. She's someone who is to protect the public…[and] to use her position, as she is alleged to have done, for the purpose of profit and personal gain, is putting the public at risk. We see that as very serious conduct.
“On the other side, we have Rapheal Smiley, an individual who has been acquiring fake cards from China and advertising those cards on Facebook and Instagram. This is an individual who, like Bethann, is making these cards widely available for individuals who choose to defraud their employers or their universities or whoever into believing that they're safe when they're not.”