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Prosecutors Target Fake COVID-19 Immunization and Vaccination Cards

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Prosecutors Target Fake COVID-19 Immunization and Vaccination Cards

In the first federal prosecution related to fraudulent vaccination cards and immunizations for the COVID-19 virus, a California neuropathic doctor, Juli Mazi, pled guilty to fraud and false healthcare statements. The doctor sold forged COVID-19 vaccination cards and fake homeoprophylaxis immunization “pellets” that she falsely claimed granted lifelong protection from the virus.

Mazi provided over 100 individuals with fake immunization pellets and cards for their children to attend schools. Prosecutors alleged Mazi profited off the sale of cards and knew these fake immunization pellets and cards would mislead schools into believing children were immunized from childhood illnesses, endangering the well-being of children and the general public. Mazi also provided over 200 individuals with fake immunization cards, which stated that individuals received the Moderna vaccine.

The case is United States v. Mazi, Case No.3:22-cr-00036 (N.D. Cal.).

Read the DOJ press release here.

Lawsuit Over Doctor’s Intent in Opioid “Pill Mill” Prescription Cases Reaches SCOTUS

On March 1, the US Supreme Court heard an oral argument in Ruan et al. v. United States, in which the government claimed doctors Xiulu Ruan and Shakeel Khan operated a “pill mill” by prescribing high volumes of powerful drugs and controlled substances. The Supreme Court heard an argument on the extent to which a medical practitioner’s good faith intent plays into such criminal prosecutions.

In the two lower court cases in Alabama and Wyoming, the government claimed that the doctors overprescribed controlled substances, including opioids, for a financial benefit, and were responsible for issuing 300,000 prescriptions between 2011 and 2015. The doctors allegedly sold such unlawful prescriptions for large amounts of opioid pills for cash. The district courts denied the doctors’ proposed jury instruction on a good-faith defense, and the doctors were subsequently convicted and sentenced to over 20 years in prison. The 10th and 11th Circuit Courts of Appeals upheld the lower courts’ decisions, and the Supreme Court granted the doctors’ certiorari petitions.

During oral argument, defense counsel for the petitioners argued that doctors are afforded a good-faith defense and discretion when treating patients, according to US v. Moore. They also argued that discounting good-faith as a defense in criminal prosecutions will impede medical research and that state medical boards, not federal prosecutors, should police medical competence. Depending on its final decision, the Supreme Court could create a new standard by which medical practitioners can be criminally prosecuted for prescribing controlled substances.

The case is Ruan et al. v. United States, Nos. 20-1410 and 21-5261, 2022 WL 606592 (US Mar. 1, 2022).

Largest Online Darknet Marketplace Dismantled 

On April 5, the Justice Department assisted in the seizure of the world’s largest and longest running darknet market, Hydra Market (Hydra), which was an online criminal marketplace that accounted for approximately 80% of all darknet market-related cryptocurrency transactions. The darknet is a key online marketplace for the sale of illicit substances and money laundering services, servicing thousands of buyers and transactions. Hydra had enabled users from mainly Russian-speaking countries to buy and sell illicit goods and services, including stolen financial information, illegal drugs, and fraudulent identification documents conducted through cryptocurrency transactions. Amongst other goods, Hydra sold fake US passports, drivers’ licenses, and hacking tools. The marketplace had received around $5.2 billion in cryptocurrency throughout its running.

FBI Director, Christopher Wray, stated that the seizure of Hydra, which enabled digital infrastructures to support Russian cybercriminals, drug traffickers, money launderers, and cryptocurrency tumblers, is an example of the FBI’s strategy; to “broadly target the entire illicit ecosystem that drives and enables crimes.”

Read the DOJ press release here.

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