Vermont law professor says fake vaccine cards are symptom of pandemic politics

Vermont

FILE: A vaccination record card is shown during a COVID-19 vaccination drive for Spring Branch Independent School District education workers Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Houston. School employees who registered were given the Pfizer vaccine.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The political conflict surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic may be a backdrop to the allegations that three former state troopers created fraudulent vaccine cards, says a professor at Vermont Law School.

The former troopers — Shawn Sommers, Raymond Witkowski and David Pfindel — have all resigned, accused of potentially violating federal law by creating the fake documents.

Law Professor Jared Carter said the alleged fraud by the troopers may be connected to vaccine mandates being enacted across the country.

“I think we will see this here in Vermont and across the country in light of the politics of the pandemic,” Carter said. “And it is a sad state of affairs.”

Carter said it’s understandable for people to try to get around vaccine mandates, which universities, government agencies and some businesses have turned to as the delta variant drives up fatalities, case counts and hospitalization rates around the country.

“But it creates a fraudulent incentive for fraudulent actors,” Carter said. “Bad actors create false vaccination cards.”

According to the FBI, the unauthorized use of the seal of a government agency, such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can lead to substantial fines and up to five years in prison.

It’s also illegal under federal law to purchase a fake card in order to misrepresent your vaccine status.

“That is the federal level — there can be state action as well,” Carter said.

Carter said the allegations could also fuel more negative attitudes about law enforcement.

“I think, to the extent, this is another instance in which law enforcement and their credibility is called into question,” said Carter, adding that he doesn’t believe the accusations are “reflective of the entire Vermont State Police organization”

At his weekly news briefing Wednesday, Governor Phil Scott said the troopers’ alleged fraud, which the FBI is now investigating, “is disappointing.”

“It’s just a simple thing to do,” Scott said. “Get vaccinated, get your card, you don’t have to fabricate something.” 

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