three Vermont state troopers step down after allegedly creating pretend Covid vaccination playing cards
Three Vermont state troopers resigned alleging they played “different roles” in producing fake Covid-19 vaccination cards, prompting an FBI investigation, authorities said.
Shawn Sommers, Raymond Witkowski and David Pfindel “are suspected of playing various roles in creating fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards, which may constitute a violation of federal law,” Vermont State Police said Tuesday.
“The details of this incident, which were reported to superiors by other soldiers, were immediately reported to federal law enforcement agencies,” the statement said. “The state police have referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Attorney’s Office in Burlington.”
Sommers and Witkowski resigned on Aug. 10, a day after another state trooper raised concerns about their behavior, officials said. Pffindel’s resignation took effect Friday after additional investigation by the state’s Department of Public Security, officials said.
None of the resigned soldiers could be reached immediately for comment on Wednesday.
Col. Matthew T. Birmingham, director of Vermont State Police, said the alleged criminal conduct of the former soldiers was inconsistent with the values and actions of the dedicated men and women in his department. He also said he was “embarrassed” that the allegations had “tarnished the reputation of the state police.”
“The allegations in this case involve an exceptional level of wrongdoing – a criminal violation of the law – and I couldn’t be more angry and disappointed,” Birmingham said in the statement. “If these allegations prove true, then it is reprehensible for government forces to tamper with vaccination cards in the middle of a pandemic when vaccination is one of the most important steps anyone can take to protect their community from COVID-19. ”
Vermont Public Safety Officer Michael Schirling said in the statement, “Based on an initial internal review, we don’t believe that state police could have done more to prevent this from happening. As soon as other soldiers became aware of this situation, they made the allegations internally and the commanders took swift and decisive action to hold these individuals accountable and to report the matter to federal authorities. “
Sommers and Witkowski joined the state police in July 2016 and graduated from the academy in January 2017, officials said. Pfindel was discontinued in January 2014. He became a detective trooper with the Bureau of Criminal Investigations in July 2016, officials said, but returned as a road trooper in April 2020.
A representative from the US Attorney’s Office in Burlington declined to comment. An FBI officer in Albany, New York, overseeing cases in Vermont, was not immediately available for comment. The Vermont Troopers’ Association leadership did not respond on Wednesday.
Fake Covid vaccination cards have caught the attention of law enforcement agencies across the country. An Illinois woman was charged with two misdemeanors in Hawaii in late August, charged with using a fake vaccination card to circumvent the state’s coronavirus testing and quarantine requirements.
The woman, Chloe Mrozak, 24, was arrested at Honolulu Airport while trying to board a flight to the US mainland after spending five days in Hawaii.
When state investigators checked Mrozak’s vaccination card, they found that her vaccination card was spelled incorrectly from vaccine manufacturer Moderna, which was spelled “Maderna”.