CHICAGO, USA – A licensed pharmacist was arrested Tuesday in Chicago on charges related to his alleged sale of dozens of authentic Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 vaccination cards on eBay.
According to court documents, in March and April 2021, Tangtang Zhao, 34, of Chicago, sold 125 authentic CDC vaccination cards to 11 different buyers for approximately $10 per card. Zhao was a licensed pharmacist in Illinois and was employed at Company 1, a pharmacy which distributed and administered COVID-19 vaccines at its physical locations nationwide. As required by the CDC, Company 1 provided a CDC Vaccination Record Card to each vaccine recipient. Zhao, who worked at Company 1 as a pharmacist during that time, obtained and subsequently offered authentic CDC vaccination cards for sale online. The indictment charges Zhao with 12 counts of theft of government property.
“We take seriously, and will vigorously investigate, any criminal offense that contributes to the distrust around vaccines and vaccination status,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners are committed to protecting the American people from these offenses during this national emergency.”
“Knowingly selling COVID vaccination cards to unvaccinated individuals puts millions of Americans at risk of serious injury or death,” said Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office. “To put such a small price on the safety of our nation is not only an insult to those who are doing their part in the fight to stop COVID-19, but a federal crime with serious consequences.”
“Stealing and selling COVID-19 vaccination cards is inexcusable and will not be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the US Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) – Chicago region.
“Fraudsters who engage in such unlawful conduct undermine efforts to address the pandemic and profit at the public’s expense. The health and safety of the public is our top priority, and we encourage people to obtain vaccination cards from their administering medical providers.”
Zhao is charged by indictment with 12 counts of theft of government property. Zhao made his initial court appearance on August 17 before US Magistrate Judge Sheila M. Finnegan of the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. If convicted, he faces a sentence of 10 years in prison per count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The FBI and HHS-OIG are investigating the case.
Trial Attorney Leslie S. Garthwaite of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.