Cuomo announces stricter penalties for COVID-19 vaccine fraud as ParCare Community Health Network denies wrongdoing
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says anyone who engages in coronavirus vaccine fraud could face up to a $1 million fine and lose their license.
The governor's announcement came after ParCare Community Health Network reportedly obtained coronavirus vaccine doses fraudulently.
Investigators say some of the doses, meant for health care workers and the elderly, may have went to the general public.
ParCare Community Health Network has previously posted on their Facebook page that they've been "authorized to distribute the COVID vaccine for people who fall under certain criteria and the vaccines will be made available on a first come, first serve basis."
Documentation obtained by News 12 shows a packing slip from the New York Department of Health to ParCare's Orange County facility with 2,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
New York state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker says the state was misled and ParCare Community Health Network was not qualified to receive the doses.
"We provided them with the vaccine because they fraudulently filled out a form that said they were a qualified health center," Zucker says. "That is incorrect."
Zucker says the health care center moved the vaccine from one area to another.
The majority of the vaccines have been given back to the state as a criminal investigation is underway.
ParCare Community Health Network said in a statement, "In an effort fully cooperate with NYS DOH, we have proactively returned the vaccines pending the department's review. We are confident the end result of that review will show that ParCare at all times exerted best efforts to comply with all NYD DOH requirements."
ParCare says it administered 869 doses of the vaccine and is working with the state to ensure a second dose for the patients that already received the first one.
The health care center says it is cooperating with New York State and will comply with all its requests.
The case has now been referred to Attorney General Letitia James.
"At this time, there is no government-authorized vaccine available to the general population in New York," James says. "I encourage the public to report suspected illegal activity to my office."
Cuomo says 140,000 New Yorkers have received one vaccine dose. A combined total of 259,000 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will be distributed this week..
Almost 100,000 of those doses will be coming to the mid-Hudson region.