Chicago pharmacist Tangtang Zhao is facing up to 120 years in prison after selling Covid-19 vaccination cards on eBay.
According to a statement released by the US Department of Justice, the 34-year-old licensed pharmacist sold 125 authentic Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccination cards on eBay to 11 separate customers for $10 per card, profiting just over one thousand dollars from the sales.
While the statement only refers to his place of employment as Company 1, a report from CBS Chicago revealed Zhao to be working at a Walgreens in Chicago's south side.
The US Department of Justice released their full statement on their Twitter page.
Pharmacist Arrested for Selling COVID Vaccination Cards Online https://t.co/h1xryllY0k— Justice Department (@Justice Department) 1629211050.0
Zhao was arrested and charged with 12 counts of theft of government property, facing up to ten years in prison per count.
If Zhao is found guilty on all counts, he would end up serving 120 years in prison.
Zhao's criminal sale of the vaccine cards comes at a time when Covid-19 cases are rising all over the world, owing to the highly contagious Delta variant.
As a result, more and more indoor businesses such as restaurants, gyms and performance venues are requiring proof of Covid vaccination before entering.
With that in mind, it's not hard to imagine unvaccinated individuals would happily pay $10 on eBay for an official CDC vaccine card if it meant they could dine indoors or go to the movies, regardless of the risk they were putting themselves and others in.
Getting the actual vaccination is free and comes with a free vaccine card.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department's Criminal Division emphasized the seriousness of Zhao's offense as well as the blow it dealt to confidence in vaccinations, as evidenced by a quote in the US Department of Justice's statement.
"We take seriously, and will vigorously investigate, any criminal offense that contributes to the distrust around vaccines and vaccination status."
"The Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners are committed to protecting the American people from these offenses during this national emergency."
Similarly, Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. of the FBI's Chicago Field Office stressed not only was this a federal crime, but Zhao's actions also put lives in danger.
"Knowingly selling COVID vaccination cards to unvaccinated individuals puts millions of Americans at risk of serious injury or death."
"To put such a small price on the safety of our nation is not only an insult to those who are doing their part in the fight to stop COVID-19, but a federal crime with serious consequences."
Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General joined in in declaring illegally selling vaccine cards is "inexcusable and will not be tolerated."
"Fraudsters who engage in such unlawful conduct undermine efforts to address the pandemic and profit at the public's expense."
"The health and safety of the public is our top priority, and we encourage people to obtain vaccination cards from their administering medical providers."
Twitter reacted to the news with a mix of shock and disgust, amazed a licensed pharmacist would be so complacent as the pandemic rages on.
@TheJusticeDept “Tangtang Zhao, 34, of Chicago, sold 125 authentic CDC vaccination cards to 11 different buyers for… https://t.co/9M4bkXTKwI— #MaskUp #VaxUp & #STFU…⚜️ (@#MaskUp #VaxUp & #STFU…⚜️) 1629211214.0
This is yet another reason as to why I will get my booster shot when available and continue to wear a mask https://t.co/K405szoE4E— TrueWordsRSpoken at ALL Times (@TrueWordsRSpoken at ALL Times) 1629216154.0
$10 a card. Was it worth jail time? “Tangtang Zhao, 34, allegedly sold 125 Covid-19 vaccination cards from the US… https://t.co/MEYlGduvYE— Andrew (@Andrew) 1629243152.0
@TheJusticeDept And all he had to do was give people the shots... he prefers to make money from vaccination cards... was it worth it?— Alice Player (@Alice Player) 1629213412.0
@TheJusticeDept Unbelievable,. Hope he loses his license.— Uncompromising chef with opinions 🔪♨️ (@Uncompromising chef with opinions 🔪♨️) 1629211636.0
@cbschicago To the Pharmacist selling Covid-19 vaccine cards "Lock him up" and that goes for all the other criminals doing what he does.— Toni Mary (@Toni Mary) 1629240350.0
One user couldn't help but point out the painful irony people actually paid $10 to buy a card when they could have received the life-saving vaccine for free.
Zhao's case is currently under investigation by the FBI.
Former federal prosecutor Steven Block told CBS Chicago it is possible, but unlikely, those who purchased the cards from Zhao would face any criminal charges.
"The government probably wants to get the healthcare provider, the person with the license."
Walgreens has yet to comment on the incident.