Coronavirus: 3 Vermont state troopers resign after FBI launches fake COVID-19 vaccination card probe

WATERBURY, Ct. — Three Vermont state troopers have resigned in connection with a fake COVID-19 vaccination card scheme.

According to Vermont State Police, troopers Shawn Sommers and Raymond Witkowski stepped down on Aug. 10 after another trooper raised concerns about their conduct, while trooper David Pfindel resigned effective Sept. 3 following a Vermont Department of Public Safety investigation.

>> Read more trending news

Specifically, the three former troopers are suspected of having participated in the creation of fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards, a potential federal violation that has prompted a separate investigation by the FBI, WCAX reported.

The FBI has warned the public since March that making or buying fake COVID-19 vaccination cards is a crime, punishable under Section 1017 of the U.S. Code’s Title 18 and other applicable laws. The practice constitutes the unauthorized use of an official government agency’s seal, which can result in a fine and up to five years in prison, The Washington Post reported.

>> Related: Coronavirus: Feds seize thousands of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards

“If these allegations are proved to be true, it is reprehensible that state troopers would manipulate vaccination cards in the midst of a pandemic, when being vaccinated is one of the most important steps anyone can take to keep their community safe from COVID-19,” Col. Matthew Birmingham, director of the Vermont State Police, said in a prepared statement.

“I’m embarrassed that this situation has occurred and know that it has tarnished the reputation of the Vermont State Police,” Birmingham added, noting that the accusations carry “an extraordinary level of misconduct.”

Vermont has reported a cumulative total of more than 29,400 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, resulting in at least 282 virus-related deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. Meanwhile, a New York Times database indicated that 77% of Vermont’s eligible population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a person fully vaccinated 14 days after they have received their final dose of an FDA-authorized vaccine. By Wednesday afternoon, more than 177 million Americans, or roughly 53% of the vaccine-eligible population had been fully inoculated against COVID-19, while nearly 63%, or roughly 208 million Americans, had received at least one vaccine dose to date, according to CDC data.

More coronavirus pandemic coverage:

>> Coronavirus: How long between exposure to the virus and the start of symptoms?

>> What are your chances of coming into contact with someone who has COVID-19? This tool will tell you

>> How to not let coronavirus pandemic fatigue set in, battle back if it does