Acting AG Platkin Announces the Arrest of Hudson County Pharmacist Charged with Selling Fake COVID-19 Vaccination Record Cards to Individuals Who Did Not Receive
TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) today announced the arrest of a Hudson County Pharmacist charged with selling fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards to individuals without actually administering the vaccine and then entering false information into a State-managed database of COVID-19 vaccination records.
Christina Bekhit, a licensed pharmacist who operates the AllCare Pharmacy in Bayonne, was arrested June 22, 2022 and charged with second-degree Computer Criminal Activity, third-degree Tampering with Public Information, and fourth-degree Destruction, Falsification, or Alteration of Records Relating to Medical Care. The charges stem from an investigation conducted by OIFP’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) in coordination with the Bayonne Police Department and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.
The complaint alleges that on three occasions Bekhit sold falsified COVID-19 vaccination record cards to undercover investigators for $250 apiece. The cards displayed vaccination dates and lot numbers for vaccines that were never administered to the recipients, including one undercover investigator who told Bekhit her job required her to be vaccinated.
The complaint further alleges that Bekhit entered false vaccination information into the New Jersey Immunization Information System database (NJIIS) purporting that the individuals had received COVID-19 vaccinations when they had not. NJIIS is an online system managed by the New Jersey Department of Health that serves as the official repository of immunizations administered to children, adolescents, and adults in New Jersey.
The MCFU Unit began investigating Bekhit after receiving information that Bekhit had sold a fraudulent COVID-19 record card to a Bayonne Police officer conducting an undercover operation in January 2022.
During the encounter with the undercover officer, Bekhit allegedly asked if he “really wanted to take the vaccine.” When the undercover officer said he did not, Bekhit allegedly offered to sell him a vaccine card that would include two vaccination dates and would be entered into the NJIIS database. Before leaving the pharmacy, Bekhit allegedly told the undercover officer “if anyone you know wants a vaccine card, bring them to me.”
In two subsequent visits from undercover investigators with the MCFU in February and March, Bekhit allegedly accepted payments for fake vaccination record cards and entered false information into the NJIIS. The investigation is ongoing.
The Division of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the State’s professional licensing boards, said the State Board of Pharmacy has been informed of Bekhit’s arrest and will consider disciplinary action against her practicing credentials, if appropriate.
In addition to being licensed to practice pharmacy in New Jersey, Bekhit is separately authorized by the Board to administer immunizations in the state.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, and fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to eighteen months in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $5,000.
Deputy Attorney General Lauren Aranguren is prosecuting the case for the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Detectives Catherine Cardenes and Regina Strugala coordinated the investigation under the supervision of Sergeant Danielle Han and Lieutenant Jarek Pyrzanowski, Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Tracy M. Thompson thanked the Bayonne Police Department, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, and the New Jersey Department of Health for their assistance in the investigation.
In New Jersey, the New Jersey Medicaid Fraud Control Unit protects Medicaid beneficiaries and the Medicaid Program from fraud, waste, and abuse. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is within the New Jersey Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor.
New Jersey’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit receives 75 percent of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling approximately $4.1 million for Federal fiscal year (“FY”) 2022. The remaining 25 percent, totaling approximately $1.3 million for FY 2022, is funded by New Jersey.
To report Medicaid Fraud or Patient Abuse & Neglect, please email NJMFCU@njdcj.org, complete the Medicaid Fraud & Patient Abuse & Neglect Reporting Form, or call 609-292-1272. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit also conducts presentations educating the public and the health care industry regarding Medicaid fraud. For more information on presentations, call 609-292-1272.
Defense Attorney: Unknown