A third woman has been arrested for "acting in concert" with two Amityville nurses accused of fraudulently filling out COVID-19 vaccination cards and entering the false information in a state database, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday.
Brooke Hogan, 29, of Patchogue, a receptionist at Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare in Amityville, was arrested Friday and charged with second-degree forgery, a felony. She was arraigned Saturday and released on her own recognizance, according to the district attorney's office.
Hogan’s defense attorney Steven Politi said Tuesday that his client worked as a secretary — not as a health care provider — and would have no direct knowledge of whether a vaccine was administered to a patient inside an examination room.
"This whole case seems to be speculative," Politi said. "I don’t believe that my client has any criminal culpability whatsoever. … I can tell you that the allegations seem to be that individuals went there and got vaccine cards but did not receive vaccines. My client has no knowledge of that occurring."
Last week, Julie DeVuono, 49, the owner and operator of Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare and a nurse practitioner, and her employee Marissa Urraro, 44, a licensed practical nurse, were arrested and charged with one count of second-degree forgery, a felony, in connection with the scheme that authorities said netted $1.5 million in cash over a three- month period beginning in November. DeVuono also is charged with first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, also a felony.
Barry Smolowitz, a Kings Park lawyer for DeVuono, said his client pleaded not guilty and was released without bail.
"I think that when the facts come out they’re going to be quite a bit different than that which is alleged by the prosecutor," Smolowitz said, adding: "She’s been doing work for kids for over 20 years with an unblemished record. This is tough to swallow."
Michael Alber, the Huntington Station attorney for Urraro, of Northport, said: "We look forward to highlighting the legal impediments and defects in this investigation."
Alber, who said his client also was released without bail, cautioned against a "rush to judgment in forming an opinion against a respected LPN" and added: "an accusation should definitely not overshadow the good work Ms. Urraro has done for children and adults in the medical field."
Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney, in a statement Friday, said of the arrests: "I hope this sends a message to others who are considering gaming the system that they will get caught and that we will enforce the law to the fullest extent."
Prosecutors have said DeVuono and Urraro forged COVID-19 vaccine cards for an undercover detective on Nov. 19 without administering the vaccine to the detective. Prosecutors said the nurses then entered the false information into the New York State Immunization Information System, a statewide vaccination database.
DeVuono and Urraro charged $220 for the forged vaccination cards for adults and $85 for children, prosecutors said.
Authorities seized approximately $900,000 in cash while executing a search warrant of DeVuono’s home, in addition to a ledger documenting profits in excess of $1.5 million from the alleged illegal activity for the time period of November 2021 to January 2022, prosecutors said.
All three defendants are due back in court Feb. 8.
With David Olson