3 state troopers in Vermont resign after allegedly making fake Covid vaccination cards

Three state troopers in Vermont resigned amid allegations they had “varying roles” in producing fake Covid-19 vaccination cards, which has prompted an investigation by the FBI, authorities said.

Shawn Sommers, Raymond Witkowski and David Pfindel “are suspected of having varying roles in the creation of fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards, which may be a violation of federal law,” Vermont State Police said in a statement Tuesday.

“The details surrounding this incident, reported to supervisors by other troopers, were immediately reported to federal law enforcement authorities," the statement said. "The state police referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Burlington."

Sommers and Witkowski resigned on Aug. 10, one day after another state trooper raised concerns about their conduct, officials said. Pfindel's resignation became effective on Friday, following an additional investigation by the state's Department of Public Safety, officials said.

None of the troopers who resigned could be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.

Col. Matthew T. Birmingham, director of Vermont State Police, said the alleged criminal conduct by the former troopers does not represent the values and actions of the dedicated men and women of his department. He also said he’s "embarrassed" the allegations have "tarnished the reputation" of the state police.

“The accusations in this case involve an extraordinary level of misconduct — a criminal violation of the law — and I could not be more upset and disappointed,” Birmingham said in the Tuesday statement. “If these allegations are proved to be true, it is reprehensible that state troopers would manipulate vaccination cards in the midst of a pandemic, when being vaccinated is one of the most important steps anyone can take to keep their community safe from COVID-19.”

Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling said in the statement: “Based on an initial internal review, we do not believe there is anything more the state police could have done to prevent this from occurring. As soon as other troopers became aware of this situation, they raised the allegations internally, and commanders took swift and decisive action to hold these individuals accountable and report this matter to federal authorities.”

Sommers and Witkowski joined the state police in July 2016 and graduated from the academy in January 2017, officials said. Pfindel was hired in January 2014. He became a detective trooper with the Bureau of Criminal Investigations in July 2016, officials said, but returned to work as a road trooper in April 2020.

Requests for comment from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Burlington and the FBI in Albany, New York — which oversees cases in Vermont — were not immediately returned. A representative with the Vermont Troopers’ Association also could not be reached.

Fake Covid vaccination cards have caught the attention of law enforcement throughout the country. An Illinois woman was charged in late August with two misdemeanors in Hawaii and accused of using a fake vaccination card to bypass the state's coronavirus testing and quarantine requirements.

The woman, Chloe Mrozak, 24, was arrested at the Honolulu airport as she attempted to board a flight to the U.S. mainland after a five-day stay in Hawaii.

When state investigators checked Mrozak's vaccine record, they found that her vaccination card included a misspelling of the vaccine manufacturer Moderna, which was written as "Maderna."

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