The 24-year-old woman who was arrested earlier this month for allegedly trying to enter Hawaii with a fake coronavirus vaccine card has skipped out on a virtual court hearing, the Associated Press reported.
Chloe Mrozak, the suspect in question, was previously released without bail after she was arrested at Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on misdemeanour charges of violating two of Hawaii’s pandemic regulations. All visitors to Hawaii must either present a vaccine card upon entry or quarantine for 10 days upon arrival; using a forged card would allow one to skip the line and hit the beaches without the mandatory quarantine. Authorities say that Mrozak uploaded a fake card, which had misspelled the vaccine manufacturer Moderna as “Maderna,” to a digital system Hawaii uses to vet travellers. If convicted on the original charges, Mrozak could face up to a year in prison.
According to the AP, Mrozak was scheduled to appear at the hearing via Zoom on Wednesday. After her non-appearance, Judge Karin Holma issued a $US500 ($689) warrant for her arrest. Not exactly the greatest plan to get out of the first one.
The FBI warned in April that forging the cards, which are official documentation issued by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, could constitute a federal crime with a max sentence of half a decade in prison. Right-wing and anti-vaxx boards have reportedly been circulating templates of varying quality online since early this year, but it appears that relatively few have actually done so (or at least been caught).
In late August, prosecutors in Manhattan announced that they would be charging a 31-year-old named Jasmine Clifford, who went by @AntiVaxMomma on Instagram, with manufacturing and selling up to 250 fake CDC cards. A pharmacist in Chicago, 34-year-old Tangtang Zhao, could face up to 120 years in prison on federal charges for allegedly selling fake cards on eBay, while a 41-year-old homeopathic doctor in California named Juli A. Mazi is facing federal fraud charges related to her alleged sale of fake cards and bogus “immunization pellets.”
While Hawaii fared relatively well through most of the pandemic due to aggressive action by health authorities and its distance from the rest of the U.S., beginning in July 2021, it began experiencing a surge that is only now in the last few weeks declining. According to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine tracker, the state has experienced an estimated 76,966 cases as of Friday and 738 deaths.
Governor David Ige has asked travellers to suspend all non-essential travel to the state until at least November, underscoring the threat the pandemic potentially poses to the tourism-dependent state. It’s estimated that over 75% of the state’s population has received at least one shot of the vaccine.