3 Vermont State Troopers Investigated Over Fake Vaccination Cards

The officers have resigned, and federal authorities are investigating, the state police said this week.,


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Three Vermont state troopers accused of being involved in a fake Covid-19 vaccination card scheme have resigned amid a federal investigation, the authorities said.

The troopers, Shawn Sommers, Raymond Witkowski and David Pfindel, were suspected of having “varying roles” in the production of fraudulent coronavirus vaccine cards, the Vermont State Police said in a news release on Tuesday.

Mr. Sommers and Mr. Witkowski resigned on Aug. 10, a day after another trooper raised concerns with supervisors about their conduct, the police said. Mr. Pfindel resigned on Sept. 3 after an investigation by the state’s Department of Public Safety.

It was not immediately clear on Wednesday whether the men had lawyers. The Vermont Troopers’ Association, an organization that represents troopers, detectives and sergeants of the Vermont State Police, did not immediately respond for comment on Wednesday morning.

The investigation began after other troopers reported details of the scheme to their supervisors. The details, which were not released, were then “reported to federal law enforcement authorities,” the police said.

“The accusations in this case involve an extraordinary level of misconduct — a criminal violation of the law — and I could not be more upset and disappointed,” Col. Matthew T. Birmingham, the director of the Vermont State Police, said in a news release.

Michael Schirling, the Vermont Public Safety commissioner, said that “as soon as other troopers became aware of this situation, they raised the allegations internally, and commanders took swift and decisive action to hold these individuals accountable and report this matter to federal authorities.”

The state police referred the matter to the F.B.I. and the United States Attorney’s Office in Burlington, Vt. A spokesman for the state attorney’s office said the case had been referred to them but declined to comment any further on Wednesday.

The state police said that because of an F.B.I. investigation, the police had been unable to announce details before Tuesday, nearly a month after the first troopers resigned, and that it would not comment further because of the ongoing federal investigation.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been over 29,300 cases of the coronavirus and at least 282 deaths reported in Vermont, according to a New York Times database, with a recent average of 161 cases per day. In August, Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont announced that some state employees who work with vulnerable populations would be required to get vaccinated against Covid-19. At least 68 percent of state’s population — including 77 percent of people ages 12 and older — has been fully vaccinated, according to a Times database.

As businesses and states reopen amid rising cases of the virus, many have required vaccination cards as proof that someone has been inoculated against Covid-19 in the United States. Instead of getting vaccinated, some people have turned to faking that proof. In March, the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General and the F.B.I. issued a public service announcement to warn the public that selling fake vaccination cards with a government logo on them is a crime.

In July, a homeopathic doctor in California became the first person to face federal charges for selling fake Covid-19 vaccination cards. And in May, the owner of a bar in California was arrested on charges that he had sold fake Covid-19 vaccination cards.

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