A Chicago pharmacist has been convicted of stealing and then selling blank COVID-19 vaccination cards on eBay. The announcement came from the Justice Department, which claimed that the pharmacist stole CDC-issued vaccination cards and made them available to eBay users across the country. The Justice Department claims that over three weeks, the pharmacist listed over 650 vaccination cards on the online marketplace. They claim he sold the cards to over 200 individual buyers and pocketed more than $5,600 due to the illicit sales.
The government was able to present evidence of the transactions and correspondence sent between the pharmacist and buyers. The pharmacist was convicted of 12 counts of theft of government property.
His attorney plans to appeal the verdict, claiming that the cards were not government property and that the government never exerted any control over them to make them their property. Instead, The government made the cards available to pharmacies like Walgreens, which distributed the cards after patients received COVID-19 vaccinations. In other words, the government exerted no supervision over the cards. They only printed them and then distributed them to pharmacies.
Theft of Government Property
It may sound like a technicality, but there are not a lot of laws on the books that deal specifically with the exigency of a pandemic that tends to occur once every 100 years. The theft of government property statute can be found in USC 18 Section 641:
“Anyone who embezzles, steals, purloins, or knowingly converts to their use or the use of another, or without authority, sells, conveys or disposes of any record, voucher, money, or something of value of the United States or of any department or agency, or any property made under contract for the Government will be fined or imprisoned.”
The maximum sentence, depending on the value of the government property, is 10 years for each count. However, if the value of the government property is less than $1,000, then the maximum term of imprisonment is one year. Since the defendant was charged with 12 counts, he could face a maximum sentence of 12 years behind bars since he is being charged individually. Or, depending on how the government evaluates the cards, he could be charged for each attempt to appropriate the government’s property for his own use.
It remains unclear whether or not his appeal will be successful. The government is claiming that the vaccination cards are government property and that the defendant stole the government property and misappropriated it for personal gain. The statute can certainly be interpreted in the government’s favor, so it will fall to case law to determine if there is a strong enough precedent to make the conviction stick. Having a jury verdict in favor of the prosecution will make life more difficult for this defendant. It appears that his best argument, in this case, is that COVID vaccination cards were not technically government property.
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