UPDATES ON The Alleged “Fake” Vaccination Card Fraud Scheme and 82 Educators Employed By the NYC Department of Education

UPDATES: The 82 teachers and administrators accused of submitting “fake” vaccination cards to the NYC DOE pursuant to the NYC COVID Mandate and taken off salary on April 25, 2022, are now back on salary and put into a rubber room – reassigned to their homes until further notice. The NYC DOE made a mistake in putting these employees in LWOP (forced “leave without pay”), lost in Court, and gave all those harmed the partial relief of being placed back on salary September 6, 2022. The 82 educators are now fighting to get the backpay owed to them from the day they were removed (April 25, 2022) .

A second happy event occurred on October 4, 2022 when Judge Arlene Bluth denied the NYC DOE’s Petition/Order To Show Cause to throw these 82 educators off of payroll once again. Bluth said no. See DECISION_ORDER Bluth

This matter, and the resulting cases (there are currently 3, see below) are all about due process and the way the NYC Department of Education denies all employees this Constitutional right. In order to win a case, you must detail the denials of due process to the Judge, and hope for the best, but it is indeed distressing to know that the NYC DOE does not care at all about any employee’s rights. If they see “any possibility” that an employee is guilty of something, they will go for termination without any facts.

The NY POST article in today’s paper:

Witnesses in alleged COVID vaccine fraud case put 82 NYC educators in potential legal danger

Julie DeVuono is in danger, that is for sure. The Suffolk County DA arrested her after finding $900,000 in cash in Devuono’s house and receipts for $1.5 million. Two staffers in her office, Wild Child, have evidently agreed to testify against their boss. She could face severe consequences if a jury finds her guilty of vaccine card fraud. See the Legislation signed by Governor Kathy Hochul in December 2021, and the Penal Code, below. But her danger is not connected to the educators’ ‘danger.’ If the Suffolk County DA had found a teacher guilty of fraud, this person would have been charged already. At this time, as far as I know the guilty parties remain Julie and her staff.

The New York City Department of Education decided, on April 19, 2022, that as the Suffolk County DA were charging the owner of Wild Child in Amityville, with fraud, any employee who went there to get a COVID vaccine was also guilty of fraud AND violating the NYC COVID Mandate. This Mandate says that any employee who did not get vaccinated cannot work inside any DOE building. The City Mayor, Eric Adams, in control of the DOE, then made a policy decision to stop all remote learning classes and force students to be inside the DOE buildings now off limits to any unvaxxed employee. This is appalling, but the clearest example of the lack of due process given to anyone that works for the DOE that I have ever seen. Did everyone who went to Wild Child go there to buy a fake vaccination card? Nope, I do not believe that and there is no proof that I have heard about at the present time. The DOE pattern and practice here is to throw the biggest amount of mud at the wall and hope that something sticks.

This is the same as believing that if a complaint is made about a teacher saying something or doing something improper to a student while two paraprofessionals and 18 students were in the room, the teacher AND the two paras must be reassigned and charged, because everyone in the room “did it” or “is complicit” with the miscreant until proven innocent. That’s not how it works. People are innocent until proven guilty.

I have never seen, in my 20+ years of advocacy, the DOE accuse and find guilty 100 people of doing something because they were, at different times, in the same location. That is not rational, in my opinion. Also, why would 100+ people want to jeopardize their careers and/or families or both, by committing a crime? I know there are people who do things that are illegal because they think they will never get caught, but those people are not the educators I have spoken with.

Since the beginning of this matter, I have consistently stated the facts as I know them: the educators I have been assisting are innocent of fraudulently submitting a fake vaccination card. Period, end of the story. At this time there is no proof whatsoever that the educators in the case I am working with Chad LaVeglia – the Attorney – committed fraud. OTHER people who I do not know, who went to Julie to intentionally get a fake card, may be guilty of fraud. But let’s get the proof before we find anyone guilty. That is under the jurisdiction of the Suffolk County D.A. Maybe those people exist. If they do, and they intentionally committed fraud knowing that their career and lives would be changed forever if caught, they deserve to be given a penalty as determined in a court of law. I do not have any facts that anyone bought a fake card, and certainly, I would not hide this fact if I had such information.

I am, as I wrote in my previous post (see below) dated July 8, 2022, assisting Attorney Chad La Veglia in helping  30 of the 82 educators in a case on this issue (See PETITION). The educators were kept waiting for the UFT to get the decision of Martin Scheinman on what the procedures should be for all those who were put on LWOP without due process to get back on salary, asked me what my opinion was, we decided not to wait, and I asked Attorney Chad LaVeglia to represent them with my assistance as a paralegal.

Why did the UFT hand this responsibility over to Martin Scheinman? The UFT Contract Article 21 is very clear, and so is Education Law 3020: no tenured teacher may be terminated or removed from salary without a due process compulsory arbitration hearing. Luckily, Mr. Scheinman agreed: Scheinman June 27 AWARD. This case would have been harder to win if we had to fight both the NYC DOE and Martin Scheinman. Scheinman is being sued right now in Federal Court (Broecker v NYC Dep’t of Educ., et al., Amended Complaint., INDEX NO. 21-cv-06387) and….well, it gets complicated. The NYC Covid Mandate in NYC has uprooted lives, laws, rules and everything known before as rational thinking. Anyone who could not, or did not, get vaccinated because of medical issues or religious beliefs were put onto the road to termination.

The NYC DOE had no right to put all those people who went to Wild Child into the new category of “Vaccine Non-Compliant”, and remove them from salary. I am personally not in support of the COVID Vaccine Mandate and want the City to put everyone, all educators, police and firemen and women back to work. The City needs them.

What is not in doubt as far as I am concerned, the teachers who have spoken with me about this matter are all innocent of fraud, they received the vaccine, and many had reactions afterward.

CSA, the Union for DOE Administrators, also sued the DOE for suddenly removing some of the members who were accused of the alleged fake vaccination card scheme from salary on April 25, 2022. VERIFIED PETITION.

Another event that popped up concerns the Attorneys for Nicole Broecker who wanted to use the Scheinman June 27 AWARD in their case, because Scheinman’s prior Award dated September 10 (UFT) and Sept. 15 (CSA) – See SCHEINMAN AWARD SEPT 10;   CSA Scheinman Award Sept 15 -created “LWOP” without pay. Scheinman’s new version of leave issued in September came with conditions: you keep your medical benefits if you gave up your right to sue and your right to look for a job (no one was told that each employee was also flagged with the Problem Code). However, Scheinman’s June 27 Award seemed to override this and go for due process before termination. See letter, Graff, to Judge Matsumoto.Graff letter. 

Mallory O. Sullivan submitted an Affirmation (see Sullivan Affirmation) that she works as Deputy Director of the Office of Employee Relations at the NYCDOE, and she cited the “high probability” that there might be a reason to believe that 4 CSA members were guilty of fraud for submitting fake CDC cards to the NYC DOE. Wow. This is quite disturbing, the low standard Ms. Sullivan used to remove 4 administrators from salary without any due process. Ms. Sullivan mentions SCI’s Senior Investigator Gerald Conroy who is “independent” of the NYC DOE and is investigating this matter. See the Conroy Affirmation.

Anyone may go to Seethroughny.net/payrolls and see the employment history and salary of any person employed by the NYCDOE or any City Agency. Here is Mr. Conroy’s salary, paid by the NYC DOE in 2021:

In my opinion, as Mr. Conroy gets paid (at least in 2021, so it could be more by now), $190,554 or more as his salary, he is hardly ‘independent’. This is my opinion, that anyone getting paid that much money does what his employer tells him to do. That’s what I think.

I also have some questions about the ethics of Mallory O. Sullivan. She handles the Problem Code at the Office of Personnel Investigations, or OPI. Mallory-problem code.

I have been working on getting DOE employees cleared from having a Problem Code on their fingerprints since I first learned about the Code in 2004. I have been writing about it and representing people who need their name cleared ever since.

The New York City Department of Education’s “Problem Code” is an Unlawful Flag on an Employee’s Fingerprints, Parentadvocates.org

The OPI Problem Code and How To Get Off of It, NYC Rubber Room Reporter

Then in October 2021 when almost 1000 DOE employees would not, could not, or did not get the COVID Vaccine, all were put on leave without Pay (LWOP) and also secretly placed on the Problem Code and then fired. Lawyers representing Michael Kane asked me to sign off on a Declaration describing the advocacy work I am doing and have done. I detailed my advocacy as a Special Representative for the UFT from 2007-2010, and how Amy Arundell, in the Office next door to my office, would give me information about who was on the Problem Code and who was not on it. I did not name Amy, because I did not want to put her name into this horrible mix, but she is, indeed, the person I refer to in my Declaration below as being helpful and next door to my office at the UFT.

Betsy Combier declaration

Amy Arundell  

I recently found out in August that after I spoke at length about the denial of due process connected with the Problem Code at PERB in several cases where I represent UFT members, the UFT filed an Improper Practice Charge against the NYC DOE, and won a ruling. Evidently, Amy Arundell, now Borough Chief for the Queens UFT office, testified that she knew nothing about the PC Code until a member told her about it in 2012. I worked at the UFT from 2007-2010, and it was during this time that Amy and I were next door to each other on the 16th Floor of 52 Broadway. UFT headquarters in Manhattan. I left in order to start my own company, and widen my advocacy to other Unions and nonunion issues. I also sadly realized that the UFT did not support members enough.

What astonishes me the most about this matter with the alleged “fake” vaccination cards and the problem code is the sheer audacity of a public agency (the New York City Department of Education) and a large Union (UFT) hiding a defamatory, demeaning flag on members’ fingerprints and wiping the payroll clear of tenured and untenured teachers simply because someone at the DOE thought that they were all guilty without proof of any misconduct, in violation of State public policy and Education Law 3020-a. I told you it was complicated.

No one, not the Suffolk County District Attorney nor anyone else, has announced that they found evidence of guilt for any of the 82 teachers and administrators and no one has been charged in this group. I believe that each and every one of the educators I have spoken with told me the truth, that they got vaccinated at Wild Child, the office of Julie DeVuono, and their cards are valid. Some told me that they paid for detox pills to lessen the chance that there may be a reaction to the shot. This is reasonable and I see nothing wrong with that. Holistic remedies give many people peace of mind and that is good.

Certainly, if anyone buys a card saying they got the COVID vaccine, and they actually paid to get this card and NOT get the vaccine, then that’s fraud and the person should be punished.

Since I started advocating for teacher’s rights in 2003 I have often seen charges without proof, terminations without reason or justification, and people harmed in retaliation for being too pretty, too good at their job, too popular, or very bad and abusive towards children. Everyone is guilty, doesn’t matter what the facts and truth are. I have seen many in each category win or lose their jobs based upon the strength or weakness of their defense in arguing violations of fact and law. In NYC, the Department of Education does not care if an employee is excellent at what they do or terrible, and the DOE attorneys do not look at, nor do they seek, probable cause.  If an educator is accused of something, and they do not know the “right people” who can get them free of any charges by making a few telephone calls, then this person can be “reassigned” to an alternate location. When the large warehouses existed in each borough, and I visited them all, I found DOE employees sitting there on full salary sometimes for 10 years or more.

This cannot be due process, nor is it good practice. The only way out is to suggest that representatives working on a case put 100% effort to win, every case, all the time. This ain’t easy if you are dealing with the Department of Education which has, sorry to say, people who do not believe in proof or facts., in my opinion.

Efforts to help the 82 educators “believed” to have been guilty of fraudulently submitting fake vaccination cards to the NYC DOE have been productive, and everyone is back on salary. Now they need to get their backpay as well. According to UFT General Counsel Beth Norton, the UFT has filed a Grievance.

The NYC DOE must comply with the law, and if they do not, then they must be held accountable.

See the details on the website of Jeremy Saland:

Fake & Counterfeit COVID Vaccination Cards: New York State Crimes & Penalties

Whether you create a fake Moderna COVID-19 vaccine card from scratch, alter a legitimate one with false information, or even possess a fraudulent Pfizer immunization card purporting to be a real one – knowing it is fictitious and with the intent to defraud – there is a real chance you will eventually find yourself under arrest. Yes, the courtroom may look different if you’re prosecuted in New York City’s criminal courts – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Staten Island – or a justice or county court in Westchester, Rockland, or elsewhere in the state, but the charges will be the same. As you stand before the judge with an attorney versed in COVID related crimes, you’ll hear an officer read off potentially catastrophic crimes, the most serious of which will likely be the felony offenses of Second Degree Forgery or Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, Penal Law 170.10 and 170.25 respectively. In the event you used the “bogus” card and information to secure an Excelsior Pass, for example, you will also likely face arrest and prosecution for First Degree Falsifying Business Records, Penal Law 175.10, and potentially First Degree Offering a False Instrument for Filing, Penal Law 175.35, as well.

THE CRIMES: PENAL LAW 170.10, 170.25, 175.10, & 175.35

The two most common criminal offenses associated with arrests for possessing or selling a false, fraudulent, or counterfeit vaccination card are Second Degree Forgery and Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument.

PENAL LAW 170.10

You are guilty of Forgery in the Second Degree, as it relates to COVID-19 vaccine cards, when you falsely make in its entirety or merely complete or alter a “written instrument” which purports to be or upon is completion will be, one or more of the following:

  • Any instrument which does or may evidence, create, or impact a legal right or status.
  • A public record or instrument that may or must be filed with a public office as a matter of law.
  • A written instrument made or issued by a public officer or government instrumentality.

Further, in creating or editing the particular instrument, your goal or objective must also be to deceive or defraud another person.

PENAL LAW 170.25

If Forgery is the making of the falsified item or instrument, Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument is the offense the police and prosecutors will charge for actually having the type of altered or fake document referenced above on your person or constructively in your possession.

PENAL LAW 175.10

You are guilty of First Degree Falsifying Business Records if, with the intent to defraud, you cause a false entry to be made into the records of an enterprise whether private or public, or you prevent an accurate entry from being made. While there are multiple subsections in the misdemeanor offense that give rise to the First Degree felony, keep in mind that this felony requires the additional element that you also were trying to commit or conceal another crime at the time of your wrongdoing.

PENAL LAW 175.35

You run afoul of First Degree Offering a False Instrument for Filing when you have a written instrument that you know contains false information that you present to a public official with the belief or knowledge it will be entered into the record of that public office. Like the other crimes, you must do so with the intent to defraud.

THE PENALTIES: POTENTIAL FOR STATE PRISON

Before even addressing the possibility of imprisonment, the first issue you need to come to terms with is the fact that a felony will have drastic and permanent ramifications on future employment, professional licensure and certification, legal status in the United States, and a host of other matters as it relates to loans, credit, and far more. Remember, while a case can potentially be sealed after ten years, New York does not expunge criminal records. In other words, a felony conviction won’t merely go away with the passage of time.

Whether a judge sentences you to a conditional discharge, probation, or something else, understand that upon your plea or conviction post-trial, the court can sentence you up to two and one third to seven years in prison on either class “D” felony of Penal Law 170.10 and 170.25, and up to one and one third to four years in prison on Penal Law 175.10 and 175.35 even if you have no prior history of fraud or misconduct.

HYPOTHETICALS: EXAMPLES OF CRIMINAL CONDUCT

The easiest way to understand the potential arrest or indictment charges associated with fake COVID-19 vaccine cards is if you make one up on your computer that is totally fictitious, or you buy or get your hands on a real card and enter fake vaccine information such as changing a date or adding a second shot to the first real one you received. Remember, the card need not be completely phony. These acts would be considered Forgery. Whether you did it yourself or purchased this document, possessing the card and using it to gain admission or access to a location such as restaurant or to provide proof to your employer so you can work, you committed Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument. Where things get even more involved, if you then present that written instrument to a government agency or allow the information contained on it to be entered into your employer’s database or to obtain an Excelsior Pass, you will have also committed Falsifying Business Records and Offering a False Instrument for Filing.

 

Court Says “No” To NYC DOE Injunction That Keeps Teachers With Alleged “Fake” Vax Cards Off Salary

July 8, 2022, Betsy Combier, Advocatz.com

The teachers and Administrators accused of buying their vaccination cards but not actually getting the shot, must be placed back on salary says a Supreme Court Judge.

Judge Arlene Bluth made an important precedent-setting decision today in the matter of the 82 teachers who were suddenly removed from salary on April 25, 2022  because the NYC Department of Education “believed” they had submitted fake vaccination cards when told to send proof of vaccination in September 2021 under the Citywide Vaccine Mandate. Why do I say precedent-setting? Because Judge Bluth said STOP to the Board of Education of the City of New York after they blatantly violated public policy, the UFT and CSA contracts, Constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, Education Law, as well as countless other state and City laws and rules, by placing 82 people off salary because of a “belief” in their guilt.

Imagine the angst of an employee being accused of committing a felony crime and suddenly placed on leave without pay without any proof or any other information, including when you will be able to tell someone you are innocent and get back on salary.

When I first heard about this I did not believe any of it. Also, Education Law 3020 is very clear on the Constitutional rights to due process:

” No person enjoying the benefits of tenure shall be disciplined or removed during a term of employment except for just cause and in accordance with the procedures specified in section three thousand twenty-a of this article or in accordance with alternate disciplinary procedures contained in a collective bargaining agreement.”

This tenure law was created to stop any principal from suddenly terminating anyone for some nonsensical petty reason.

When Mayoral control took over the NYC Department of Education, Mayor Bloomberg rented huge spaces in District offices around the City ( there were 8 all together, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx) where tenured educators charged by their principal or some other person at the DOE were reassigned and suspended WITH pay sometimes for up to 15 years, while awaiting a 3020-a hearing or after being found guilty but not terminated at a hearing. These rooms became what is known as the “rubber rooms”. People sat in these rooms ON SALARY but suspended from their teaching duties.

On April 25, 2022 the NYC Department of Education went a step further, and unilaterally placed 82 teachers on unpaid leave who had received one or two Pfizer vaccine shots at Wild Child in Amityville. Simply and astonishingly, these 82 people seemed to have been picked randomly and found guilty of the same allegation of wrong-doing as the people cited in a sting operation by the Suffolk County DA – see arrest in suffolk County of Julie Devuono – because they went to the place of the crime.

This seems to me to be similar to someone going to a bank to withdraw money, and suddenly robbers arrive and try to rob the bank. The police see the innocent person and make a connection to the robbers, and arrest the person trying to get a withdrawal.

As soon as the April 19 notice of  pending leave without pay on April 25 was received, the UFT General Counsel Beth Norton (pictured above) wrote Liz Vladeck, General Counsel (pictured below) an email letter which basically said, “stop this ridiculousness immediately, and put all people back on salary until a due process hearing has been held.”

Attorney Norton also filed a UFT Notice of Claim

                                                                                                  Liz Vladeck, NYCDOE General Counsel

A few of the accused teachers wanted to file a Grievance with the UFT, and heard that they could not file a Grievance, but could request a 3020-a (the emails below were sent and received by a teacher in Brooklyn):

Request for Grievance

No UFT member may request a 3020-a, so I’m not sure what Ms. Carte is doing but I am hopeful that she was just trying to be helpful. However, we have no information from Mr. Levine about whether or not he sent the request for the 3020-a to the Office of Legal Services at the DOE.

On May 3 Beth Norton asked Arbitrator Martin Scheinman to intervene, and he agreed. He issued his Scheinman Award June 27 (see below) saying that the Department must put everyone back on salary until “guilt” is established:

“Leave without pay is an unusual outcome. Yet, I decided it was appropriate for employees whose requests for a medical or religious exemption were denied. This is because such employees intentionally decided to disregard the mandate they be vaccinated by September 27, 2021, the date established by Commissioner Chokshi and Mayor de Blasio.

Implicit in such a designation of leave without pay is the individual failed to comply with the vaccine mandate. Here, there is a dispute whether the employees did or did not comply. Without that being assessed, or at least submitting evidence to show a high likelihood of non-compliance, the predicate for placing an employee on leave without pay does not exist.”

The DOE immediately filed an Article 75 Appeal to keep all 82 teachers suspended without pay and without any due process, but on July 8, 2022 NY Supreme Court Judge Arlene Bluth decided the DOE was wrong. The DOE and UFT will have another chance to make their arguments to Judge Bluth on July 19, 2022.

Meanwhile, 30 of the 82 teachers could not wait for the UFT or DOE to give them the relief they desperately needed, to be placed back on salary. They sued the NYC DOE in Kings County Supreme on June 30, 2022. I helped them put the case into the very amazing hands of Attorney Chad Laveglia who I asked to comment on all of this and the Scheinman Award issued June 27. He said,

“These teachers followed every instruction they were given. They uploaded their vaccination cards as required. Seven months later, the DOE had the audacity to send them an email placing them on leave without pay.  Significantly, they did so in abrogation of the due process that these teachers are constitutionally and legally entitled to. Due process protects the innocent from determinations of guilt based on nothing more than the whims of the accuser. The DOE has no basis in fact or law to summarily discipline these teachers. The DOE’s arbitrary and unlawful actions will be rectified in court.”

Chad, I, and all the unfairly suspended teachers are awaiting the next Court date, and we are hopeful that the denial of Law by the DOE will be stopped, and everyone will placed back on salary with back pay and any other relief that is just. and proper – including their jobs back!

See the papers in the Article 75:

Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York et al v. United Federation of Teachers, Local 2, AFT, AFL-CIO et al

Index No. 451995/2022

PETITION

Vaccine Mandate August 24

April 19 email

Scheinman Sept 10 Award

Declaration of Impasse

UFT April 21 letter

DOE April 22 letter

UFT May 3 letter

DOE May 4 letter

UFT MAY 6 letter

DOE May 10 letter

UFT May 11 letter

Teachers CBA

2018 Memorandum of Agreement

Scheinman Sept 15 Award

DOE-ORDER_TO_SHOW_CAUSE

DOE Affirmation of Good Faith

Proof of Notice to Respondents

UFT MEMORANDUM_OF_LAW

Bluth signed-ORDER_TO_SHOW_CAUSE

STIPULATION of Adjournment

DECISION___ORDER Bluth

Betsy Combier

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