January 17, 2023

Nurses Charged With Selling Fake Vaccine Cards Allegedly Laundered $1.5M and Paid Mortgage

Nurses Charged With Selling Fake Vaccine Cards Allegedly Laundered $1.5M and Paid Mortgage

Julie DeVuono, a 49-year-old pediatric Nurse Practitioner in New York City, was arrested in January 2022 on charges of second-degree forgery and offering a false instrument for filing. She is accused of operating a fraudulent vaccine card scheme out of her Long Island-based clinic, Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare, from November 2021 through January 2022. 

According to court documents, she laundered over $1.5 million from the scheme in just over two months. One of DeVuono’s employees, a 44-year-old Licensed Practical Nurse named Marissa Urraro, was also arrested on charges of second-degree forgery for her role in the scam.

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Julie DeVuono (left) and Marissa Urraro. (Photo via Suffolk County PD)

Vaccine Card Fraud Details

DeVuono received shipments of the Covid-19 vaccine through the New York Department of Health to administer to her patients for free. Instead, DeVuono and Urraro regularly wasted the doses and charged customers for forged vaccine cards that stated they had received the vaccine when they had not. DeVuono and Urraro are also accused of adding false vaccination information to the New York State Immunization Information System database, which is used by the New York Department of Health to track vaccination status.

According to prosecutors, DeVuono charged customers $85 per child and $220 per adult for each of the false vaccine entries. She created a secret code within the electronic health record system to signal to Urraro that patients would be falsely vaccinated. Urraro would then take patients into an examination room and feign giving them the vaccine, accept payment in cash, and distribute the false vaccination cards with DeVuono’s name and license number applied.

The scam was discovered by undercover detectives, who were given vaccination cards at the clinic on multiple occasions without ever having received the vaccine.

DeVuono’s Arrest

Law enforcement officers seized nearly $900,000 in cash from DeVuono’s home, as well as a written ledger indicating $1.5 million in profits from the scheme. DeVuono’s husband, an NYPD officer, was home at the time of the arrest and was allegedly aware of the existence of the stashed cash. 

(photo via Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office)

Although he was not arrested, Mr. DeVuono was stripped of his gun and badge and removed from active duty following his wife’s arrest. He subsequently filed a petition to be reinstated to active duty, claiming that he was not directly involved in his wife’s vaccination scam. Online records indicate his employment with the NYPD ended in September 2022.

The Attorneys and DA Speak Out

DeVuono’s attorney, Barry Mark Smolowitz, has denied any wrongdoing on behalf of his client. In a brief phone call with The Washington Post, Smolowitz was quoted saying, “Let me just say this — I would implore your readers not to jump to conclusions.” He has otherwise remained markedly silent in the press.

Michael Alber, Urraro’s attorney, released an official statement, saying, “An accusation should not overshadow the good work Ms.Urraro has done for children and adults in the medical field...it is so important that there is no rush to judgment in forming an opinion against a respected LPN. We look forward to highlighting the legal impediments and defects in this investigation.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney also released a statement, announcing, “These individuals allegedly used their positions as licensed healthcare professionals to engage in criminal conduct for their financial benefit.” Tierney said he hopes the arrests deter others from attempting to “game the system” and he feels confident that the law will be enforced to its fullest extent.

Both DeVuono and Urraro were released from police custody shortly after their arrest. They have both entered a not-guilty plea and are awaiting trial. 

Nursing License Statuses

According to the New York license verification database, DeVuono has been licensed as a Nurse Practitioner in the state of New York since 2002 and Urarro has been a Licensed Practical Nurse since 2019. 

At the time of publication, both suspects’ licenses are listed as “Registered” with no enforcement actions taken against them. Presumably, if DeVuono and Urarro are convicted, actions will be taken against their nursing licenses at that time.

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