A man who was hired as a contract worker at a coronavirus vaccination site in Southern California was charged Wednesday with stealing more than 500 blank vaccine record cards from the site.
Muhammad Rauf Ahmed, 45, of Las Vegas, faces one count of grand theft, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced.
On April 27, detectives with the La Verne Police Department were alerted to a possible theft of blank COVID-19 vaccine cards by an employee at the county-run vaccination center at Fairplex in Pomona, California, the department said in a statement. During their investigation, detectives discovered a total of 528 blank vaccine cards in the man's car and hotel room.
Online booking records show Ahmed was arrested and released on April 27. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 25, the district attorney's office said.
According to police, Ahmed was a nonclinical employee who was hired on contract to work at the vaccination site.
In a statement provided to BuzzFeed News, the LA County Department of Public Health, which manages the clinic at the fairgrounds, said that when county staffers learned the suspect was "in unauthorized possession of vaccination cards," they questioned him and referred the issue to La Verne police.
"Public Health has extensive security measures in place which allowed for the quick identification of the theft and after this incident in April added additional protocols to prevent future thefts," the department said.
In March, the FBI warned that it's illegal to buy or sell fake vaccination cards under a US code that prohibits the creation, use, or distribution of fraudulent government documents — but online merchants have been selling blank vaccine cards through Telegram, Amazon, and Etsy.
It was not immediately clear what Ahmed planned to do with the cards. A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office declined to comment in response to BuzzFeed News’ request for additional information. In a statement attached to the news about the charges, District Attorney George Gascón said, "Selling fraudulent and stolen vaccine cards is illegal, immoral and puts the public at risk of exposure to a deadly virus."