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Owner busted after California bar sold fake COVID vaccination cards, officials say

The ABC said undercover agents were able to buy the fake vaccination cards multiple times in April at the bar.

CLEMENTS, Calif — The owner of a bar in San Joaquin County was arrested after being accused of selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards at his businesses.

The accusation comes from Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), who said in a news release that their undercover agents were able to buy the fake vaccination cards multiple times in April at the bar.

The bar was identified as The Old Corner Saloon in Clements. With help from the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office and district attorney's office, the ABC said they were able to execute a search warrant at the site and recover materials related to the distribution of the fake cards.

“We don’t know of anyone anywhere. We’ve looked to get guidance and we haven’t been able to locate one nationally to our knowledge. There could be, but we haven’t been able to locate one,” said Luke Blehm, deputy division chief with ABC, in reference to whether they've seen similar situations.

Blehm added that the cards were being sold for $20 each, with four being sold to undercover agents and about eight being sold to other people. Officials said they also found laminating machines and about 30 blank cards.

Credit: Alcoholic Beverage Control
A bar owner in San Joaquin County was arrested after being accused of selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards.

“It is disheartening to have members in our community show flagrant disregard for public health in the midst of a pandemic. Distributing, falsifying or purchasing fake COVID-19 vaccine cards is against the law and endangers yourself and those around you," said San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. "The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office is grateful for the partnership with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for their work in this case.”

The owner, identified as Todd Anderson, was booked into county jail on charges that included falsifying a medical record, falsifying a seal, several counts of identity theft and possession of a loaded unregistered firearm.

Officials say they are working on filing charges against another bartender who they say, also sold undercover officers the cards. It’s an operation investigators say has been going on for at least a few weeks now.

Something that shocked community members like David Moore who lives just seven minutes away.

“I’m astounded that somebody would do something on the side like that just for pure money," Moore said.

Don Vilfer, a non-practicing attorney and former supervisory FBI Special Agent worries this may only be the beginning.

"As more establishments start requiring proof of vaccination, or as countries require it in order to enter the country or travel about, then you’re going to see more opportunities for people reproducing fake ones to serve the people that don’t want to get vaccinated," Vilfer said.

He says you may not necessarily be committing a crime just for buying one of these fake vaccine cards, but you are committing a crime if you use it.

"When you use it, now you've committed your own crime, you've made a misrepresentation to probably a government agency that you are vaccinated and so you can travel within your country and so now, you not only helped out a criminal but you've committed a crime," he explained. "If I was one of these people that bought one of these, I would be very reluctant to travel overseas with a bogus vaccination card and potentially get arrested overseas."

ABC10 reached out to the bar that was still full of customers following the owner's arrest on Tuesday night and they had no comment. 

ABC said they'll be filing for disciplinary action against the bar, which can include suspension or revocation of the ABC license, and that they'll be seeking a criminal complaint on another employee of the business.

Back in late March, the FBI made a public service announcement regarding fake COVID-19 vaccination cards. Officials said that anyone making or buying a fake vaccination card with a government logo on them is breaking the law and endangering both themselves and the people around them.

Credit: Alcoholic Beverage Control
A San Joaquin County bar owner was arrested after being accused of selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards.

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