A Long Island high school teacher is facing felony charges after prosecutors said she gave a forged COVID-19 vaccination card to her employer to try to dodge school district policy.
Tricia Manno, a math teacher at Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park, pleaded not guilty Wednesday at an arraignment in Nassau County Court.
A grand jury indicted her on felony charges of criminally possessing a forged instrument and offering a false instrument for filing, and misdemeanor charges of criminal possession of a forged instrument and criminal possession of stolen property.
Manno, 47, of Lindenhurst, submitted a digital copy of a vaccination card to her employer on Sept. 21 as proof of her supposed vaccination status in order to avoid weekly COVID-19 testing that otherwise is required by school district rules, prosecutors said Wednesday.
But the digital document had several discrepancies and appeared to be forged, according to the Nassau County District Attorney's Office.
Because of the suspected forgery, school district employees asked Manno to submit her original vaccination card. But prosecutors said Manno, who told the district she'd been vaccinated at Northport VA Medical Center, also reported to school staff that she'd lost the original card.
Then on Sept. 27, Manno went to Northport VA Medical Center, displayed a digital image of the forged vaccination card and claimed she had lost the original, according to the allegations.
A member of the medical center then issued a replacement card based on Manno's false claim, according to prosecutors, who said the facility has no record of giving Manno a COVID-19 vaccination.
On Oct. 5, Manno allegedly submitted the replacement vaccination card to the school district after getting it under false pretenses, the district attorney's office said.
The teacher is facing up to 2 and 1/3 to 7 years in prison if she's found guilty of the top charge against her.
Manno's Mineola attorney, Scott Limmer, declined to comment Wednesday except to confirm his client's not-guilty plea.
"Submitting fradulent documents is a crime, and in this case, one that put the health and safety of students and staff at risk," District Attorney Anne Donnelly said in a statement.
Documents obtained by Newsday show Manno in February agreed to a $20,000 disciplinary fine, and district Superintendent James Grossane issued her a letter of reprimand.
The fine and reprimand grew out of a settlement between the district and Manno after school officials filed charges against Manno. The fine will come out of her paycheck over two years.
Grossane's letter said the reprimand was intended "as a penalty and consequences" for Manno's actions.
While the specifics of her actions were redacted, the letter said Manno was made aware when the school year was starting that every district employee was required to have weekly COVID-19 testing or provide proof of vaccination.
"You are hereby reprimanded for your misconduct, incompetence and actions ... and are put on notice that conduct such as this will not be tolerated," the letter also stated.
Grossane's office referred a Newsday inquiry about Manno to a public relations firm Wednesday.
They didn't answer a question about her job status. But they released a statement from the superintendent saying: "The district has been, and will continue to, fully cooperate with the Office of the Nassau County District Attorney in their investigation. However, due to privacy restraints the district is unable to comment on matters of personnel."
-With Jim Baumbach and Joie Tyrrell