PATCHOGUE, NY — A third worker at a Long Island pediatric care clinic has been charged in connection with a bogus COVID-19 vaccination card scam, Suffolk District Attorney Ray Tierney's office said Tuesday.
Brooke Hogan, a 29-year-old receptionist at Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare in Amityville, where two nurses forged COVID-19 vaccination record cards, was arrested on Friday on a charge of second-degree forgery, a felony, Tierney's office said. The charge is the result of Hogan "acting in concert" with Julie DeVuono, a nurse practitioner and owner of the facility, and her employee, Marissa Urraro, a licensed practical nurse, Tierney's office said.
Hogan pleaded not guilty to the charge at her arraignment on Saturday and she was released on her own recognizance.
She is due back in court on Feb. 8.
No further details were released about Hogan's arrest.
Prosecutors said DeVuono, 49, and Urraro, 44, ended up giving undercover detectives COVID-19 vaccine cards multiple times, and the cards indicated a vaccine was given, though no vaccine was administered.
DeVuono and Urraro then entered the false information into the state's Immunization Information System database, Tierney said.
Hogan's defense attorney, Steven Politi of Central Islip, pointed out that Hogan is not a licensed medical professional, only the office manager who would not have been present for any shots that were or were not given, and at first blush, she is on "a very different playing field" than her coworkers.
Politi said he is waiting for more information on Hogan's case as part of the discovery process.
He went on to question whether anyone had come forward saying that they did receive a false vaccination card.
"My client, Brooke Hogan, is absolutely not guilty of any wrongdoing whatsoever," he said.
DeVuono and Urraro were each charged with second-degree forgery, Tierney said, adding that DeVuono was also charged with an additional count of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing.
Law enforcement seized about $900,000 in cash and a ledger documenting over $1.5 million in profits, said Tierney, adding that the ledger went from November 2021 to January 2022.
DeVuono's husband, Derin DeVuono, an NYPD officer, is being investigated by the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau for any possible involvement he may have had in sending patients to his wife's clinic, sources told The Daily News.
In 2020, Derin DeVuono lost five vacation days after he was accused of piloting an NYPD spy plane on a penis-shaped flight path three years prior as a member of the department’s Aviation Unit, and he was reassigned after making improper flight log entries and not conducting flight surveys, according to the outlet.
Tierney said DeVuono and Urraro used their positions as healthcare workers to get COVID-19 vaccines, along with COVID-19 vaccination cards, and medical syringes from the New York State Department of Health, and charged adults $220 and children $85 for each false entry.
The duo used their positions as licensed healthcare professionals "to engage in criminal conduct for their financial benefit," said Tierney, adding, "I hope this sends a message to others who are considering gaming the system that they will get caught and that we will enforce the law to the fullest extent."
The Suffolk County Police District Attorney's squad, along with federal agents from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and investigators from New York State Department of Health, conducted court-authorized searches at Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare, as well as at DuVuono's Amityville home, according to Tierney.
"As nurses, these two individuals should understand the importance of legitimate vaccination cards as we all work together to protect public health," said Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison.
Maureen Mullarkey contributed additional reporting to this story.