Marine charged in Jan. 6 riot arrested in N.Y. for selling forged vaccine cards to unvaccinated including other military members


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As part of the alleged scam, nurse Steven Rodriguez, 27, saw patients who came to the clinic for vaccination appointments but who didn’t actually get shots. Rodriguez allegedly wasted doses of the lifesaving treatment by disposing of vials of vaccine that would have been used had the shots been administered, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York.

Officials said Liu and Rodriguez, who live in Queens and Long Island, respectively, put countless people in danger by putting real Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination cards in the hands of people trying to hide their unvaccinated status — including Marines who were required to be vaccinated by Nov. 28 under a Defense Department mandate.

“[Liu] has absolutely no regard for the safety of the community at a time when the virus was absolutely raging,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Amir said at Liu’s arraignment Thursday evening.

Amir requested that Liu, who had a GPS-jamming device in his car when it was searched Thursday, be held without bail on the grounds that he is a flight risk and sophisticated with technology. He worked as a cyber network operator in the Marine Corps and was skilled enough to figure out how to avoid detection, the prosecutor said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sanket J. Bulsara said the conduct prosecutors accused Liu of “makes me very upset, infuriated even,” but that he was giving Liu what should be his final chance to remain at liberty by setting a $250,000 bond that was secured by a property his stepfather provided for collateral.

Bulsara issued a stern warning to the defendant, who he said had flouted rules set by a court in Washington previously. He’s facing misdemeanor charges there stemming from the Capitol riot and had been given strict warnings not to commit other crimes while he was out on his own recognizance.

“He thinks that in some ways this is one big joke. … He basically is giving the middle finger, as far as I can tell, to three federal judges by not following their instructions” and through other conduct, Bulsara said.

Liu will also be on strict home detention and must wear a GPS monitor so his location can be traced.

Prosecutors said in court papers that Liu allegedly bragged about his forgery acumen in an encrypted message in September, telling the recipient that “you have no idea how many documents I faked in my [military] career.”

In another message he seemed to refer to Rodriguez as “my buddy who will destroy a vial, scan your ID, and give you a band-aid.”

Through Rodriguez’s capacity as a health-care worker, they were able to submit proof to a New York state database that logs residents’ vaccination status and can be used to obtain an Excelsior Pass, an app that serves as proof of vaccination for entry to restaurants, stadiums and theaters in New York City and elsewhere.

“As alleged, by deliberately distributing fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards to the unvaccinated, the defendants put military and other communities at risk of contracting a virus that has already claimed nearly one million lives in this country,” Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.

Liu was charged in October with four misdemeanor counts of trespassing and disorderly conduct related to his presence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when insurrectionists overtook the government landmark where Congress had convened to certify the presidential election results, expressing rage that Joe Biden had been determined the winner.

The mob was inspired by President Donald Trump and his supporters, who made unfounded claims of election fraud and sought to overturn the valid results of the contest.

Many believers of election disinformation are also opposed to the coronavirus vaccines and have expressed outrage at mandates imposed by governments and workplaces. The vaccines have been deemed safe by an overwhelmingly large percentage of public health officials and scientists.

Rodriguez was expected to be released on a $100,000 bond. Both men pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News and Analysis


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