The pandemic has been hard on all of us. No one needs to be reminded of the lockdowns, business closures and, most significantly, losses of life brought on by COVID-19. As we all continue to work on living lives of normalcy, we are reminded about some of the issues we faced when the pandemic was at its height.
Regardless of your position on COVID-19 vaccinations, health care fraud remains illegal and immoral. Zaya Powell of Waterbury, Connecticut is enduring the consequences of fraudulent actions connected to the pandemic. As reported by the District of Connecticut branch of the United States Department of Justice last week, the 25 year-old has been sentenced to three years of probation for creating false COVID-19 vaccine records.
Powell created false vaccine records for several individuals.
Court documents and testimony revealed that Powell worked as a Data Entry Specialist for Griffin Health Services Corporation (“Griffin Health”). As part of her role, she was required to travel to numerous COVID-19 vaccination sites in Connecticut operated by the company. Powell did not administer any vaccines. However, she did have access to the Griffin Health electronic health record system.
The system contained stacks of blank COVID-19 vaccination cards. Powell also had access to the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS). It is a database developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to track COVID-19 vaccine administration. Powell used VAMS to create fraudulent vaccination records for 14 different people between August and October of 2021.
The records gave vaccination status to individuals who did not receive the vaccine.
The fraudulent records created by Powell showed that each of the 14 individuals had received a single-dose the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a Griffin Health location. In fact, none of the individuals had received any COVID-19 vaccinations from either Griffin Health or any other health care provider.
“In order to create the fraudulent vaccination record, Powell entered each individual’s name and date of birth into VAMS,” details the DoJ report, “She also created fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards for each of the 14, and distributed the fraudulent cards to the individuals or to their family members or co-workers. The fraudulent cards included lot numbers of genuine vaccines that were administered to other Griffin Health patients.”
Four of the 14 individuals were state employees.
Four people who received Powell’s fake COVID-19 vaccination cards worked at the Southbury Training School. It is a Connecticut Department of Developmental Services facility located in Southbury. Because of their jobs, the employees were considered “state employees” or “state hospital employees”. As a result, they were required to meet vaccination requirements. They falsely claimed to have received COVID-19 vaccinations using Powell’s bogus records.
Powell pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement relating to a health care matter on August 12, 2022. In addition to her three years of probation, she has been ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and perform 200 hours of community service.
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