Julie DeVuono arrives at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Wednesday...

Julie DeVuono arrives at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Wednesday for her arraignment on upgraded charges alleging she ran a COVID-19 vaccine card scam. Credit: James Carbone

The attorney for an Amityville nurse practitioner accused of running an alleged $1.5 million fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination card scheme blamed “COVID hysteria” and a pair of subordinates for his client’s legal troubles following her arraignment on money laundering charges Wednesday.

Julie DeVuono had “very little to do” with the vaccination side of her pediatric business and “did not commit any crimes,” attorney Jason Russo of Garden City said of his client, placing the blame for the illegal activity instead on a pair of women who worked for DeVuono.

“Unfortunately, the COVID hysteria that has overcome this country has found its way into a courtroom right now,” Russo said. “We’re going to fight this vigorously.”

DeVuono, 50, pleaded not guilty before state Supreme Court Justice John Collins in Riverhead to felony charges of money laundering, forgery of a government document and offering a false instrument, as well as misdemeanor conspiracy. Her corporation, Kids-On-Call Pediatric Nurse Practitioner PC, has also been indicted.

DeVuono, the owner and CEO of a clinic operating under the name Wild Child Pediatrics in Amityville, told Collins she is still a licensed nurse practitioner and that she continues to operate her practice five days a week.

While DeVuono is not facing any bail-eligible offenses, Collins called her a "flight risk" and ordered her to receive GPS monitoring with a 5 p.m. curfew, conditions Russo said surprised him since they were not requested by the district attorney’s office.

Prosecutors have alleged that after entering into an agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to administer free COVID-19 vaccinations to the public in 2021, DeVuono directed practical nurse Marissa Urraro of Northport to fake giving shots to patients who would then receive a vaccine card in exchange for cash. The shots were then falsely reported to the state, prosecutors said.

Adult patients paid $220 to $350 per fake shot recorded with the state, according to a civil forfeiture complaint filed by Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney against DeVuono last year. Fake pediatric shots ranged from $85 to $220, the complaint said. The employees often received cash payments from patients, which were kept in a safe at the office from which DeVuono would frequently remove cash, according to the complaint.

To conceal the alleged scheme, DeVuono, Urraro and receptionist Brooke Hogan, of Patchogue, all of whom were criminally charged, “wasted” the doses the clinic reported administering to patients by dumping an equal amount of the vaccine into a trash can, the complaint said.

Urraro and Hogan were not charged in the new indictment and their cases have been sealed following court appearances last week. A district attorney spokesperson declined to comment on the status of their cases. An attorney for Urraro did not respond to a message seeking comment.

"Counsel for DeVuono should be well aware that Ms. Hogan has detailed her truthful involvement in this situation as an employee for Ms. DeVuono," said Steve Politi, of Central Islip, who is representing Hogan. "If curious about Ms. DeVuono's level of involvement in this operation, simply follow the money."

Speaking outside the courtroom Wednesday, Russo distanced his client from the alleged scheme.

“During the time of COVID, where the vaccines were being given, there was a separate practice going on and I think you'll learn during the course of this, that my client had very little to do with that part of the practice,” he said. “And these women were very heavily involved, and a lot of the doings and a lot of what was going on was happening because of what those women were doing … I suspect that they’re working with the government to help themselves.”

Russo said he attempted to negotiate a plea agreement for his client, but he no longer believes that’s an option.

In the civil forfeiture action, Tierney alleged DeVuono used proceeds of the scheme to pay the mortgage on her Amityville house in the days following her arrest.

Tierney alleged in the filing that DeVuono authorized a $236,980 wire transfer just three days after her January 2022 arrest to pay the balance on a mortgage for the house owned by her husband, an NYPD pilot who retired in December, according to the civil forfeiture complaint.

During the raid of the DeVuono home in January 2022, investigators recovered more than $869,000 in cash and a ledger indicating the scheme generated $1.5 million, according to the civil forfeiture complaint and prosecutor statements at her previous arraignment. 

The alleged scheme has been linked to a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn, filed by an attorney for a group of 30 New York City public school teachers who were suspended without pay after an investigator reported they received their vaccine cards from the Amityville clinic, according to records in that case. Supreme Court Justice Gina Abadi ruled in December that those teachers, 27 of whom previously had been granted tenure, should be returned to the classroom and awarded back pay. 

The attorney for an Amityville nurse practitioner accused of running an alleged $1.5 million fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination card scheme blamed “COVID hysteria” and a pair of subordinates for his client’s legal troubles following her arraignment on money laundering charges Wednesday.

Julie DeVuono had “very little to do” with the vaccination side of her pediatric business and “did not commit any crimes,” attorney Jason Russo of Garden City said of his client, placing the blame for the illegal activity instead on a pair of women who worked for DeVuono.

“Unfortunately, the COVID hysteria that has overcome this country has found its way into a courtroom right now,” Russo said. “We’re going to fight this vigorously.”

DeVuono, 50, pleaded not guilty before state Supreme Court Justice John Collins in Riverhead to felony charges of money laundering, forgery of a government document and offering a false instrument, as well as misdemeanor conspiracy. Her corporation, Kids-On-Call Pediatric Nurse Practitioner PC, has also been indicted.

DeVuono, the owner and CEO of a clinic operating under the name Wild Child Pediatrics in Amityville, told Collins she is still a licensed nurse practitioner and that she continues to operate her practice five days a week.

While DeVuono is not facing any bail-eligible offenses, Collins called her a "flight risk" and ordered her to receive GPS monitoring with a 5 p.m. curfew, conditions Russo said surprised him since they were not requested by the district attorney’s office.

Prosecutors have alleged that after entering into an agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to administer free COVID-19 vaccinations to the public in 2021, DeVuono directed practical nurse Marissa Urraro of Northport to fake giving shots to patients who would then receive a vaccine card in exchange for cash. The shots were then falsely reported to the state, prosecutors said.

Adult patients paid $220 to $350 per fake shot recorded with the state, according to a civil forfeiture complaint filed by Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney against DeVuono last year. Fake pediatric shots ranged from $85 to $220, the complaint said. The employees often received cash payments from patients, which were kept in a safe at the office from which DeVuono would frequently remove cash, according to the complaint.

To conceal the alleged scheme, DeVuono, Urraro and receptionist Brooke Hogan, of Patchogue, all of whom were criminally charged, “wasted” the doses the clinic reported administering to patients by dumping an equal amount of the vaccine into a trash can, the complaint said.

Urraro and Hogan were not charged in the new indictment and their cases have been sealed following court appearances last week. A district attorney spokesperson declined to comment on the status of their cases. An attorney for Urraro did not respond to a message seeking comment.

"Counsel for DeVuono should be well aware that Ms. Hogan has detailed her truthful involvement in this situation as an employee for Ms. DeVuono," said Steve Politi, of Central Islip, who is representing Hogan. "If curious about Ms. DeVuono's level of involvement in this operation, simply follow the money."

Speaking outside the courtroom Wednesday, Russo distanced his client from the alleged scheme.

“During the time of COVID, where the vaccines were being given, there was a separate practice going on and I think you'll learn during the course of this, that my client had very little to do with that part of the practice,” he said. “And these women were very heavily involved, and a lot of the doings and a lot of what was going on was happening because of what those women were doing … I suspect that they’re working with the government to help themselves.”

Russo said he attempted to negotiate a plea agreement for his client, but he no longer believes that’s an option.

In the civil forfeiture action, Tierney alleged DeVuono used proceeds of the scheme to pay the mortgage on her Amityville house in the days following her arrest.

Tierney alleged in the filing that DeVuono authorized a $236,980 wire transfer just three days after her January 2022 arrest to pay the balance on a mortgage for the house owned by her husband, an NYPD pilot who retired in December, according to the civil forfeiture complaint.

During the raid of the DeVuono home in January 2022, investigators recovered more than $869,000 in cash and a ledger indicating the scheme generated $1.5 million, according to the civil forfeiture complaint and prosecutor statements at her previous arraignment. 

The alleged scheme has been linked to a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn, filed by an attorney for a group of 30 New York City public school teachers who were suspended without pay after an investigator reported they received their vaccine cards from the Amityville clinic, according to records in that case. Supreme Court Justice Gina Abadi ruled in December that those teachers, 27 of whom previously had been granted tenure, should be returned to the classroom and awarded back pay. 

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