Cuomo vows coronavirus vaccine fraud crackdown, warns of $1M fines and revoked licenses

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New York health providers who fraudulently obtain or distribute coronavirus vaccines will now risk fines of up to $1 million and revocation of their state licenses, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned. 

His announcement comes as state police are investigating ParCare Community Health Network — which has five locations in New York City and one in Monroe – over allegations it administered doses of the vaccine in violation of state guidelines. 

"We want to send a clear signal to the providers that if you violate the law on these vaccinations we will find out and you will be prosecuted," Cuomo told reporters Monday. 

A ParCare Community Health Network location in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Google Maps)

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The governor said he would sign an executive order "that says we are very clear… we will not tolerate any fraud in the vaccination process." 

"The executive order I’m going to sign… says a provider could be fined up to a million dollars and a revocation of all state licenses, which frankly may be more of a deterrent than the one million dollars," he continued. "And that will apply to a provider, a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacist – any licensed health care professional."

"So, if you engage in fraud in this vaccine, we will remove your license to practice in the state of New York," he added, while also mentioning that ParCare is "one health care provider who may have done that." 

New York Health Department (DOH) Commissioner Howard Zucker had announced over the weekend that ParCare Community Health Network was under criminal investigation over concerns it "may have fraudulently obtained" the "coveted COVID-19 vaccine" and "transferred it to facilities in other parts of the state in violation of state guidelines and diverted it to members of the public," contrary to the state's plan to administer it first to front-line health care workers and first responders, as well as nursing home residents and staffers. 

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However, a spokesperson for ParCare told Fox News on Monday that the clinic was given contrary information by a DOH representative on Dec. 21, the day it received the Moderna shipment. 

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"There was nothing illegal here, no black markets transfer. The company was told – over the phone – it was allowed to re-distribute the doses to other clinics in its network," the rep said.  

A ParCare spokesperson also affirmed on Monday it has since "proactively returned" its existing inventory of vaccines to the state "pending the [health] department's review," leaving those who did receive it perplexed as to whether they will reap the full benefits and receive the follow-up jab. As it is formulated, the Moderna vaccine requires a booster shot 28 days after the first one. 

The spokesperson also said it has provided the documentation regarding the proper receipt of the vaccines to the NYS DOH and has vehemently denied any wrongdoing in its bid to obtain vaccine doses.  

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"Our record of working hand-in-hand with the city and state of New York is second-to-none. ParCare followed all NYS DOH procedures for obtaining the Moderna vaccine and was approved by NYS DOH for distribution and by CDC as a network site," the representative said. "We are confident the end result of that review will show that ParCare at all times exerted best efforts to comply with all NYS DOH requirements and will allow us to continue to achieve our number one goal of providing these critical vaccines to the New Yorkers who need them most." 

ParCare is said to have administered more than 850 initial shots to date. It remains unclear how many of those were given to individuals who qualify under the state's current guidelines. 

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Zucker told reporters Monday that "we provided them the vaccine because they fraudulently filled out a form that said that they were a qualified health center and that was incorrect," describing it as "strike one." 

"And number two, they moved it from one area to another area, which was inappropriate. So, that’s strike two," he continued. "And then they gave it to people who were not on the priority list. So, that was strike three." 

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