Feds: Southgate nurse stole real COVID vaccine cards to sell, Detroit man imported fake ones from China

Bethann Kierczak, Rapheal Smiley facing federal charges

A COVID-19 vaccination card.

DETROIT – A Southgate nurse and a Detroit man have been charged in connection with two COVID vaccination card fraud schemes -- one involving the theft of real cards from a hospital and the other dealing in fake imported cards from China, federal officials said.

Nurse steals cards from hospital

Bethann Kierczak, 37, of Southgate, is accused of stealing authentic COVID-19 vaccination record cards from a VA hospital.

Kierczak, a registered nurse, would also steal vaccine lot numbers necessary to make the cards appear legitimate, according to authorities.

Federal officials said Kierczak would sell the stolen cards and information to people in Metro Detroit, potentially allowing unvaccinated residents to claim they have received the COVID vaccine.

A criminal complaint says Kierczak began stealing COVID vaccine cards as early as May 2021 and continued doing so until she was arrested Wednesday morning (Sept. 29).

“At a time when Americans eagerly want to return to a normal way of life, these counterfeit vaccine cards undermine our confidence in COVID-19 vaccines,” said Vance R. Callender, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations field offices in Michigan and Ohio.

She sold the cards for $150-$200 each, communicating with buyers primarily through Facebook Messenger, according to officials.

Kierczak is scheduled to appear in federal court Wednesday afternoon on the charges of theft of government property and theft or embezzlement released to a healthcare benefit program.

Man imports fake cards from China

Rapheal Jarrell Smiley, 32, of Detroit, is accused of running a scheme to import, sell and distribute fake COVID vaccination cards that he ordered from two shippers in China, officials said.

Those shippers have been previously identified by authorities as importers of fake COVID vaccine cards, federal officials said.

The criminal complaint accuses Smiley of advertising the cards for sale on his Facebook and Instagram pages.

Smiley was arrested Wednesday and is scheduled to appear in federal court on the charges of fraud involving department or agency seals, identity document fraud and trafficking in counterfeit goods.

“These arrests reflect our deep commitment to protecting the health of our community and preventing this dangerous fraud from affecting our most vulnerable citizens,” acting United States Attorney Saima S. Mohsin said. “Regardless of whether an individual choses to get vaccinated, we urge everyone to avoid turning to schemes like these to evade vaccination requirements. Importing these cards is a crime. Selling these cards is a crime. We will continue to investigate these crimes and prosecute them accordingly.”

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.