COVID-19 vaccination fraud may be spreading faster than the deadly bug itself among New York City workers, The Post has learned.
At least two city agencies, the FDNY and Sanitation Department, are in the crosshairs of a probe into employees submitting phony proof of the COVID-19 vaccine — in some cases stealing blank vax cards — in order to comply with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s jab mandate, insiders said.
At the FDNY, the scheme appears to involve the theft of the blank cards from the agency’s Brooklyn headquarters and other facilities where the department was offering jabs, according to a source.
FDNY honchos were sufficiently concerned to warn employees in an Oct. 30 memo, a copy of which was seen by The Post, that falsifying or forging an “official vaccination card” for “the purpose of proving vaccination compliance” may be a felony.
Fire Department officials have called the leaders of at least one union, Local 2507 Uniformed EMTs and Paramedics, to let them know of an investigation into members who submitted forged vaccination cards, according to the source.
“There’s a lot of people in trouble,” said an FDNY insider.
FDNY employees would have access to vaccination cards because the agency’s Incident Management Team had been dispensing the shot to workers in the department and at various city agencies.
Some of the stolen blank cards may have been illegally sold, the insider said. “There were Venmo transactions involved.”
An EMS lieutenant may have been at the center of the scheme, according to a FDNY source.
An FDNY spokesman refused to comment. Oren Barzilay, the head of the EMS union, did not return requests for comment.
The alleged fraud is widespread among sanitation workers — where at least 50 were suspended — and possibly as many as 150 involved — for providing fake vax verification, which they allegedly obtained through people affiliated with CVS drug stores on Staten Island and Brooklyn, DSNYs sources told The Post.
The scheme appears to involve a drug store employee submitting false data to the state, saying workers received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson jab, an insider said.
But the alleged fraud appeared to unravel because CVS was not distributing the Johnson & Johnson shot at the time, the insider said.
“I think what they did is extremely stupid. Either get the vaccine or accept the consequences,” the insider said.
The majority of the alleged fraudsters worked mainly out of two garages on Staten Island, on Richmond Avenue opposite the Staten Island Mall and on Arthur Kill Road, another agency source said.
The insider called the mandates “unfair” and said “guys are putting their jobs and freedoms in jeopardy over this.”
A Sanitation spokesman confirmed the agency is “actively investigating” workers who submitted fugazi jab proof, adding that the city Department of Investigation had been informed.
Diane Struzzi, a spokeswoman for DOI, said the agency “is aware of allegations involving the issuance of bogus vaccination cards and declines further comment.”
Sanitation spokesman Joshua Goodman, said, “These are very concerning allegations and we take them very seriously – getting vaccinated is important to public health, and we do not tolerate anyone faking something that is a requirement of city employment.
“Anyone we find has submitted a fraudulent vaccination card will be suspended without pay,” he added. He would not say how many people had been suspended.
When asked about employee suspensions, Harry Nespoli, the president of Teamsters Local 831, which represents DSNY workers, said “I know, I know. I’m on it now,” declining to comment further.
A CVS spokeswoman said the company was not aware of an incident of vaccination fraud in Brooklyn and Staten Island, but confirmed it was not giving out the Johnson & Johnson shot.
DSNY and the FDNY had been among the agencies with the lowest vaccination rates for city workers.
Sanitation workers engaged in a rule-book slow down as a protest last month that left trash piling up on curbs. And some FDNY members called out sick ahead of the mandate’s implementation, leading to fire companies being shuttered.
As of Thursday night, 87 percent of sanitation workers; 86 percent of firefighters; and 92 percent of EMS workers had been jabbed, according to City Hall.
The city also released the number of people who applied for religious or medical exemptions and can continue to work until their cases are decided. There were 1,560 requests among firefighters; 1,310 among sanitation workers; and 210 among EMS employees.
Workers who did not submit proof of having at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 1 were placed on unpaid leave.