OWINGS MILLS, Md. (WJZ) -- A 23-year-old Owings Mills man faces federal charges for distributing fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, according to the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland.
Amar Salim Shabazz faces up to 20 years in prison for mail fraud and obstruction of justice in connection with the distribution of the cards.
According to the criminal complaint, since June 2021, Shabazz purchased over 600 fraudulent COVID-19 vaccinations cards through a foreign online marketplace and had them illegally shipped to him.
He then advertised them on social media, and he wasn't shy about it.
According to the complaint, Shabazz posted a video of the cards on two of his social media accounts with the caption "Covid19 vaccination card who want one. $75 a pop."
Shabazz allegedly messaged someone when he was sold out: "Made 300 today. I'm sold out. Just bought 500 more cards. 60x500 is $30k. I'm gonna be rich."
On August 19, CBP officers seized a shipment sent to Shabazz's address. The carrier's website said the package had been delayed at U.S. Customs. Shabazz then allegedly searched the phrase "customs inspection packages VACCINATION cards" and watched a video titled, "FBI investigating fake vaccination cards."
Shabazz then made another order and began selling those cards for $70 each.
Investigators interviewed customers of Shabazz outside of Maryland and confiscated the fake cards. On October 1, they executed a search warrant at a basement Shabazz worked out of.
There, law enforcement found a list, "Things I'm doing when I get out (updated)."
In early 2021, Shabazz was an inmate of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services after being sentenced for possession of child pornography. He was released in April 2021.
Officials said the list included obtaining two "burner" cell phones, with the note, "first burner is for scamming." Another bullet point reportedly said, "hire a lawyer and get tips of what not to do when getting money illegally."
The next day, Shabazz allegedly researched how to delete his account on the foreign marketplace website he used to purchase the cards, and deleted his email account.
The National Association of Attorneys General at the beginning of April called on eBay, Shopify and Twitter to stop people from selling or advertising fake CDC vaccine cards on their platforms.
In May, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice's National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
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