Salt Lake man charged with selling tens of thousands of fake COVID vaccination cards

A Salt Lake man has been charged by a federal grand jury with selling tens of thousands of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards online during the pandemic.

A Salt Lake man has been charged by a federal grand jury with selling tens of thousands of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards online during the pandemic. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake man is facing federal criminal charges accusing him of selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards online.

On Thursday, U.S. Attorney for Utah Trina Higgins announced that a federal grand jury had returned indictments against Nicholas Frank Sciotto, 32, of Salt Lake City, and Kyle Blake Burbage, 32, of Goose Creek, South Carolina. Each man is facing one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, according to federal charging documents unsealed Thursday.

While Sciotto was living in Weber County, he started an online business "where he began to fraudulently manufacture and sell the COVID-19 vaccination record cards," according to prosecutors.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sciotto … manufactured and sold at least 120,000 counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination record cards, mainly to persons in New York who were subject to tighter COVID restrictions," charging documents state.

From about March to September in 2021, he primarily used Facebook to sell the cards at $10 each for orders of 10 or more cards, and $7.50 each for orders of 100 or more cards, prosecutors say.

Investigators say Sciotto replied to one Facebook post in 2021 and stated, "I know someone selling legit vacc cards cheap for people who don't want to partake in a science experiment." Four days later, he used Facebook messenger to send "an image of stacks of COVID-19 vaccination record cards" to a contact, the charging document states.

"Between on or about April 2021 through June 2021, Sciotto sold approximately 45,000 counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination record cards," according to court documents, and over 120,000 between March and September 2021. In July 2021, Sciotto is accused of convincing the owner of a local print shop that he worked for a hospital and was authorized to print vaccination cards.

"On around Aug. 31, 2021, Sciotto posted on Facebook a picture of at least four boxes full of COVID-19 vaccination record cards and stated, 'Just tell me how many you need. DM me,'" according to the charges.

Sciotto tried to avoid law enforcement detection by "changing every week the envelopes and shipping locations he used to mail" the counterfeit cards, federal court documents allege.

Burbage is accused of purchasing vaccination cards from Sciotto knowing they were fake, and reselling them in South Carolina. Sciotto sold counterfeit vaccination cards at wholesale to Burbage, "who then, with Sciotto's knowledge, resold or distributed the counterfeit cards to others at a time when the counterfeit cards had a market value of $50 to $100 each," charging documents state.

This is the second time a Utahn has been charged in federal court this year in connection with fake COVID-19 vaccination cards. In January, Michael Kirk Moore Jr., his business Plastic Surgery Institute of Utah, and others were indicted by a federal grand jury and accused of destroying hundreds of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine while still handing out COVID-19 cards to those who wanted them, even though those patients did not receive a COVID-19 vaccination shot.

"The case is part of a nationwide coordinated law enforcement action by the Department of Justice to combat health care fraud related to COVID-19. In total, (the Department of Justice) announced criminal charges against 18 defendants in nine federal districts across the United States," Higgins announced Thursday with the filing of the latest case.

"These cases allegedly resulted in over $490 million in COVID-19 related false billings to federal programs and theft from federally funded pandemic programs."

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.


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