En español | A homeopathic doctor from Napa, California, who was arrested Wednesday has become the first person in the U.S. to face federal criminal charges for allegedly falsifying COVID-19 vaccination cards, officials said.
Juli A. Mazi, 41, is accused of taking steps to make it appear that clients had received two doses of the Moderna vaccine, Department of Justice (DOJ) officials said. In fact, Mazi exploited fears among the public by fraudulently claiming that the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccinations contained “toxic ingredients,” a court affidavit says.
Pushing pellets over shots
The accusation against Mazi alleges that instead of administering one of the three authorized vaccines, she sold her clients “homeoprophylaxis immunization pellets.” Homeoprophylaxsis involves exposing an individual to diluted amounts of a disease, which supposedly stimulates the immune system and confers immunity.
Mazi told clients the pellets would provide “lifelong immunity to COVID-19,” but a National Institutes of Health (NIH) expert called the claim “absolutely false,” the affidavit says.
The NIH, on its website, says there is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific health condition.
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Mazi, on her own website, says she has a doctorate in naturopathic medicine and calls that the equivalent of a medical doctor's training. DOJ officials refer to her as a California-licensed homeopathic doctor.
Her website offers natural treatments, including herbal medicine, homeopathy, medical nutrition, IV and injection therapy, and lifestyle counseling.
Mazi did not respond to requests for comment. She faces one count of wire fraud and one count of making false statements about health care matters. The case is in federal court in San Francisco.
Counterfeit vaccination cards a danger
"This defendant allegedly defrauded and endangered the public by preying on fears and spreading misinformation about FDA-authorized vaccinations, while also peddling fake treatments that put people's lives at risk,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said in a statement.
"Even worse, the defendant allegedly created counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards and instructed her customers to falsely mark that they had received a vaccine, allowing them to circumvent efforts to contain the spread of the disease,” Monaco said.
The investigation began with a complaint to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. Mazi allegedly provided official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine cards to clients along with instructions on how to fraudulently complete them to make it appear that they had received two doses of the Moderna vaccine. She allegedly provided Moderna vaccine lot numbers to enter and instructions on how to select the dates they had purportedly received the shots.
Allegations of COVID-19 fraud may be reported by calling the DOJ's National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721 or by filing an online report.
Katherine Skiba covers scams and fraud for AARP. Previously she was a reporter with the Chicago Tribune, U.S. News & World Report, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She was a recipient of Harvard University's Nieman Fellowship and is the author of the book, Sister in the Band of Brothers: Embedded with the 101st Airborne in Iraq.