This week 24-year-old Kaiyah S. Heinrich of the Town of Cheektowaga appeared this morning before Cheektowaga Town Court Justice David M. Stevens for a felony hearing. Ms. Heinrich was arraigned in Clarence Town Court on March 11, 2022 charged with one count of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree (Class “D” felony). Her felony hearing today was adjourned.
An investigation began after the New York State Department of Health received information that the defendant was allegedly selling fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards through her Facebook account. It is alleged that on Thursday, March 10, 2022, the defendant knowingly and intentionally sold two falsified COVID-19 vaccination cards to an undercover investigator on Thruway Plaza Drive in the Town of Cheektowaga.
This is the second case to be prosecuted in Erie County following the passage of the “Truth in Vaccination” legislation that went into effect immediately after it was signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul on December 22, 2021. The bill specifies that a vaccination card is considered a “written instrument” under New York State penal laws related to fraud. The case against a West Seneca couple who was charged for allegedly using fake vaccine cards to attend a Buffalo Bills game in violation of rules at Highmark Stadium remains pending in Orchard Park Town Court.
“I have issued several warnings to inform the public that the use of a fake vaccine card with the intent to defraud another person or entity is a crime in New York State. This defendant is accused of knowingly and intentionally selling falsified vaccination cards to others and profiting from their misuse. I am committed to keeping the residents of Erie County safe, which includes upholding laws related to public health. If you are caught using or selling these fake vaccine cards, you will be prosecuted,” said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.
Heinrich is scheduled to return on May 17, 2022 at 9:00 a.m. for a felony hearing. She remains released on her own recognizance as the charge is a non-qualifying offense for bail.
If convicted of the charge, Heinrich faces a maximum of 7 years in prison.
DA Flynn commends the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Erie County Department of Health, and the New York State Department of Health for their work in the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Chief Candace K. Vogel of the Special Investigations and Prosecutions (SIP) Unit.
As are all persons accused of a crime, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.