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California homeopathic Dr. is first federally charged for selling fake COVID vaccine cards

FILE - In this Dec. 24, 2020, file photo, a COVID-19 vaccination record card is shown at Seton Medical Center in Daly City, Calif (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 24, 2020, file photo, a COVID-19 vaccination record card is shown at Seton Medical Center in Daly City, Calif (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
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WASHINGTON (SBG) — A state-licensed homeopathic doctor from Napa, Calif. is the first person in the country federally charged for selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards as well as immunization pellets she claimed would give buyers immunity from the virus for life, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In April, a person submitted a complaint to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General saying that family members had purchased homeoprophylaxis immunization pellets from 41-year-old Juli A. Mazi. Homeoprophylaxis, a pseudoscience, is the controversial use of homeopathy as a preventative measure against infectious diseases, like COVID-19, in place of a vaccine. The practice is considered dangerous by medical professionals and is not even accepted universally in the homeopathic world.

Mazi's website claims she "received her doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon where she trained in the traditional medical sciences as well as ancient and modern modalities that rely on the restorative power of Nature [sic] to heal."

The person making the complaint said the family members in question did not have the COVID vaccine and were told by Mazi that the immunization pellets contained a small amount of the virus and that ingesting the pellets would create an antibody response in the immune system that would result in "full lifelong immunity from COVID-19," Mazi's criminal complaint states. Mazi also allegedly falsely claimed that Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccines contain "toxic ingredients."

Mazi is accused of telling the complainant's family to mark the fake vaccination cards, which were pre-marked with Moderna, to falsely say they had received the FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine.

This defendant allegedly defrauded and endangered the public by preying on fears and spreading misinformation about FDA-authorized vaccinations, while also peddling fake treatments that put people’s lives at risk. Even worse, the defendant allegedly created counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards and instructed her customers to falsely mark that they had received a vaccine, allowing them to circumvent efforts to contain the spread of the disease,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “The Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners are committed to protecting the American people from fraudsters during this national emergency. This commitment is evident in this prosecution as well as in the ongoing work of the Department and our agency partners in the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force established by the Attorney General earlier this year.

Mazi is also accused of selling homeoprophylaxis immunity pellets she claimed would prevent childhood illnesses, even going as far as to say that the pellets should be given to children, saying the "dose is actually the same for babies."

Between Jan. 2020 and May 2021, Mazi received more than $200,000 through payments made through Square, although it's unclear how many people may have bought COVID immunization pellets and fake vaccination cards from Mazi, according to the complaint.

Steering through the challenges presented by COVID-19 requires trust and reliance on our medical professionals to provide sage information and guidance,” acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds for the Northern District of California. “According to the complaint, instead of disseminating valid remedies and information, Juli Mazi profited from unlawfully peddling unapproved remedies, stirring up false fears, and generating fake proof of vaccinations. We will act to protect trust in the medical developments that are enabling us to emerge from the problems presented by the pandemic.

The federal complaint also says Mazi made false claims in written documents and in videos where she would tell buyers the pellets contain a “very minute amount of this [COVID-19] disease” that can result in “infectious symptoms” or “automatically flag the immune system’s attention, inducing immunity.”

She would then provide buyers with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-issued vaccination cards with instructions on how to fraudulently complete them so it appeared like the person had received two doses of the Moderna vaccine, according to the complaint.

This doctor violated the all-important trust the public extends to healthcare professionals — at a time when integrity is needed the most,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven J. Ryan of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

Ryan says his office will work with various law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute "fraudsters who recklessly endanger the public’s health during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.”

The FBI also intends to pursue fraudsters.

Spreading inaccurate or false medical information about COVID-19 for personal gain, as the complaint alleges, is dangerous and only seeds skepticism among the public,” said Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair of the FBI's San Francisco Field Office. “As the government continues to work to provide current and accurate information to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the FBI will continue to pursue those who attempt to fraudulently profit from spreading misinformation and providing false documentation.

In May, Attorney General Merrick Garland established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to investigate fraud allegations like those leveled against Mazi.

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"The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts, the Justice Department said in a statement.

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