An Anti-Vax Influencer Has Been Charged With Selling Fake Vaccine Cards on Instagram

·4 min read
COVID-19: Vaccine: Los Angeles - Credit: Ringo Chiu/AP
COVID-19: Vaccine: Los Angeles - Credit: Ringo Chiu/AP

A New Jersey woman who went by the handle @AntiVaxMomma on Instagram has been charged with helping to run a business to distribute fake COVID-19 vaccination cards.

According to a press release from the New York state district attorney’s office, Jasmine Clifford, 31, a self-described entrepreneur from Lyndhurst, New Jersey, is accused of selling approximately 250 fake COVID-19 vaccination cards on Instagram, charging $200 per card. She’s also charged with falsely entering at least 10 people into New York state’s vaccine database for an additional $250, data which was transferred to New York state’s official Excelsior pass system.

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Clifford, who had more than 300,000 followers on her main account @5starjaziii, is facing charges of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree, offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, and conspiracy in the fifth degree. An alleged co-conspirator Nadayza Barkley, 27, is facing similar charges, allegedly for using her position as a medical clinic worker in Patchogue, New York to enter names into the New York State vaccine database.

According to a video by TikToker @tizzyent, who exposed Clifford last week, Clifford was notorious for spreading anti-vaccine sentiment on her multiple accounts. While her previous anti-vaccine account, @antivaxmomma, had been removed by Instagram earlier this summer, she had already accumulated more than 10,000 followers on her backup account @antivaxmomma2, and would regularly direct her main account’s followers to that page. “DM for religious exemption letters,” her Instagram bio read. According to a comment posted by Clifford, she also believed that mandatory vaccinations were part of the “LGBTQ agenda.”

In an interview with Rolling Stone, @tizzyent, whose real name is Michael McWhorter, 45, says that he reached out to Clifford posing as a Walgreen’s employee after he saw her post trying to recruit people who worked in healthcare. She allegedly told him that she was working with another person who was making $10,000 a week fraudulently entering people in New York state’s vaccine system. At that point, he says, he contacted the FBI, who informed them they had been investigating Clifford since June.

“People’s lives are at risk,” says McWhorter, pointing out that a friend of his died from COVID last week. “When I see people who are healthy and can be vaccinated refuse to be vaccinated or not only that, refuse to wear a mask…they’re the ones who in a zombie apocalypse wouldn’t tell you they were bit. That’s making a joke about something serious, but unfortunately the reality of that is what we’re seeing: people acting out of selfishness to not want to protect others.”

In addition to Clifford and Barkley, thirteen other people who have not been publicly identified by the district attorney’s office have also been charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument for buying the cards. Horrifyingly, most of these people are believed to be frontline workers, such as hospital or nursing home employees. Earlier this month, then-Governor Cuomo issued a mandate requiring all New York state health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of September.

It’s unclear how the ring managed to survive for so long on Instagram, a platform that has ostensibly been cracking down on anti-vaccine sentiment. In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. appeared to squarely take aim at Facebook, which owns Instagram. “We will continue to safeguard public health in New York with proactive investigations like these, but the stakes are too high to tackle fake vaccination cards with whack-a-mole prosecutions,” said District Attorney Vance. “We need companies like Facebook to take action to prevent the fraud happening on their platforms.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Facebook said, “We prohibit anyone from buying or selling fake – or even genuine – COVID-19 vaccine cards. We removed Ms. Clifford’s account at the beginning of August for breaking our rules, and we will review any other accounts that might be doing the same thing. We appreciate the DA’s work on this matter and will remove this content whenever we find it.”

Tues., Aug. 31, 2021, 7:22 pm. This story has been updated with comment from Mr. McWhorter.

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