By Brandon Goldner

TURNERSVILLE, N.J. (CBS) — A postal worker from Turnersville is charged with selling more than 400 fake vaccine cards to unvaccinated people.

The Justice Department says Lisa Hammell made thousands of dollars in the COVID-19 fraud scheme.

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They allege she designed and printed the cards while on the job.

According to a grand jury indictment, Hammell sent a federal employee, who requested counterfeit vaccine cards, a picture of two of her cards, along with a message saying, “Making fakessssss. Graphic design degree paying off.”

Prosecutors alleged from May through October 2021, buyers paid Hammell through an electronic payment app.

Investigators said customers disguised the payments by using descriptions, such as, “movie tickets,” “dinner and drinks,” and “birthday card.”

A USPS spokesman confirmed Hammell worked as a customer service supervisor at the Marlton branch.

He said in a statement, “The US Postal Service is aware of this situation. This employee is currently on the rolls but not engaging with the mail.”

According to USPS’ collective bargaining agreement with the American Postal Workers Union, being “on the rolls” means being placed under a “non-pay” status.

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Robert Falzone, the head of engineering for cybersecurity firm Check Point, said the challenge with counterfeit vaccine cards is they can be easily passed off as authentic.

“I’ve witnessed it myself where [the] most you would get often is just a glance [from a worker who thinks], ‘Oh, it looks legit to me,’ and away you go. You’re in the restaurant,” Falzone said “I think that’s, really, on the enforcement side, is what’s made it extraordinarily challenging, especially for small businesses and restaurants.”

If a business requires its employees to be vaccinated, Kevin Troutman, an attorney and partner at the law firm Fisher Phillips, LLP, said employers need to establish a formal system to physically inspect vaccine cards.

“If you can see the actual card, which we think is a good idea, make sure it feels like a card, that it’s not just a slip of paper,” Troutman said. “Look at the signatures. Does all the handwriting look like it’s the same?”

He said employers need to check that all the dates line up with a typical vaccine schedule; make sure that the manufacturers listed are actual companies; and note any excessive erasing, scratch-outs, or other noticeable changes to the card.

Troutman added faking a vaccine card has major consequences.

“That could subject the individual to federal criminal charges,” Troutman said. “Not just penalties, but criminal charges.”

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If convicted, Hammell could face up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Brandon Goldner