MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Port of Memphis has emerged as a smuggling hotspot for counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seizing more than 3,000 of the fake cards, en route to recipients nationwide, to date.
In a Friday statement, CBP officials confirmed the packages originated in Shenzhen, China, and indicate interest in evading proof-of-vaccination restrictions to enter certain establishments, schools and public spaces remains high even as the highly transmissible delta variant fuels a surge in new COVID-19 infections nationwide.
“These vaccinations are free and available everywhere,” Michael Neipert, CBP area port director of Memphis, said in the statement. “If you do not wish to receive a vaccine, that is your decision. But don’t order a counterfeit, waste my [officers’] time, break the law and misrepresent yourself.”
According to the agency, 121 packages of the fake cards - ranging in bundle size from 20 to 100 - have been confiscated to date. Despite featuring a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention logo, however, the shipments’ Chinese origins, rather than the CDC or another medical organization, tipped off officers to the smuggling attempts, The Washington Post reported.
Meanwhile, the fake forms were also riddled with misspellings, unfinished words and inaccurate Spanish translations, the agency stated.
According to WSMV, the counterfeit forms, at least 20 of which were bound for Nashville, included blanks in the following spots:
- Recipient’s name and birthdate.
- Vaccine maker.
- Lot number.
- Date and place the shot was given.
The FBI has warned the public since March that making or buying fake COVID-19 vaccination cards is a crime, punishable under Section 1017 of the U.S. Code’s Title 18 and other applicable laws. The practice violates the unauthorized use of an official government agency’s seal, which can result in a fine and up to five years in prison, the Post reported.
Meanwhile, Neipert stated that the CBP remains committed to stopping the smuggling attempts and “helping to protect our communities,” but his agitation with the diversion of resources was evident.
“Just know that when you order a fake vaxx card, you are using my officers’ time as they also seize fentanyl and methamphetamines,” he said.
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