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Florida fire captain accused of stealing COVID-19 vaccine doses meant for first responders

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A Florida fire captain accused of stealing COVID-19 vaccines meant for first responders turned himself in Wednesday afternoon, sheriff's officials said. Polk County Fire Rescue Captain Anthony Damiano, 55, faces a felony charge of falsifying an official record as a public servant and misdemeanor petit theft, according to a Polk County Sheriff's Office news release.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a news conference Tuesday that paramedic Joshua Colon, 31, was arrested Monday for covering up Damiano's theft.

Polk County Fire Rescue had been delivering the coronavirus vaccines to first responders, and Colon, who had been honored as the county's "paramedic of the year" earlier this month, was administering the shots, Judd said. Colon forged the vaccine screening and consent forms to help cover up the theft of three doses of the Moderna vaccine, Judd said.

"There were three syringes with three doses of the vaccine that Joshua Colon put in a plastic bag, put in a special refrigerator and sealed it," Judd told reporters. "… So he left, take a break, and when he came back, voila! The seal's broken, and the vaccinations are gone."

Polk County Fire Rescue Captain Anthony Damiano is seen in a police booking photo.
Polk County Fire Rescue Captain Anthony Damiano is seen in a police booking photo. Polk County Sheriff's Office via WKMG-TV

During an interview at his lawyer's office, Colon told investigators that Damiano had asked him to take the vaccine. Colon told investigators he initially refused, but the captain threatened to report him for stealing and selling vaccines. Colon said that frightened him.

Damiano wasn't arrested sooner because he had been on a work assignment in California, Judd said.

Judd said two of the stolen doses were left in a car for weeks and were no longer viable, CBS affiliate WKMG-TV reports. The Moderna vaccine needs to be kept in very cold temperatures before being administered.

The third stolen dose hasn't been recovered, Judd said.

Damiano was free on $1,250 bail. Jail records didn't list whether he had an attorney who could comment.

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