Julie DeVuono, the Amityville nurse who ran a fraudulent vaccine...

Julie DeVuono, the Amityville nurse who ran a fraudulent vaccine card scheme, appears at her sentencing in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Tuesday. Credit: Tom Lambui

A Suffolk judge told a former nurse practitioner who admitted selling more than $1 million in fraudulent vaccine cards during the COVID-19 pandemic that he believed she was motivated by greed as he fined her corporations more than $500,000 beyond what she had expected to pay at sentencing Tuesday.

State Supreme Court Justice John Collins told Julie DeVuono, 52, the former owner of Wild Child Pediatrics in Amityville, that she endangered the lives of “hundreds, if not thousands” of people who relied on her “clients, not patients” to comply with state mandates that required them to become vaccinated to continue to work public sector jobs in New York.

“This case was not a referendum on the necessity of the COVID vaccine or the governmental mandates,” Collins told DeVuono. “This case is about greed. You are not some altruistic heroine, some archangel of the anti-vax people. You are an opportunistic thief who prostituted her medical expertise, and her license to help people, to feather your own nest.”

As part of a plea deal, DeVuono was sentenced to 6 months in jail, but will instead serve 840 hours of community service where she now lives in Pennsylvania. Collins ordered that service did not involve health care or medical practices. DeVuono also paid back $1.2 million in proceeds from the scheme in a criminal forfeiture case the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office filed against her.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A forrmer nurse practitioner who admitted selling more than $1 million in fraudulent vaccine cards during the COVID-19 pandemic was sentenced to 6 months in jail Tuesday.
  • But Julie DeVuono will instead serve 840 hours of community service where she now lives in Pennsylvania. as part of a plea deal.
  • A judge ordered that service did not involve health care or medical practices.

 The New York State Department of Health revealed Tuesday that violations of public health law were also filed against DeVuono for falsely reporting 226 vaccines administered to 26 pediatric patients.

"Today’s sentencing of Julie DeVuono is an example of the repercussions of vaccine-related fraud," department spokesperson Erin Clary said. "This type of criminal conduct is a threat to public health; in particular, it puts at risk the safety of patients who may be particularly vulnerable and whose wellbeing New York’s public health system exists to protect."  

Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney James Bartens acknowledged to Collins that the results of the state  Health Department investigation had been submitted to the district attorney’s office but said it had not been determined if DeVuono would face additional criminal charges. Collins said the report from the Health Department includes eight pages of documentation of the incidents, which all occurred before DeVuono’s September guilty plea.

Attorney Jason Russo, of Garden City, said he believes it is unlikely his client would face additional charges. He said DeVuono, whom he described as remorseful over the criminal case, denies the additional uncharged allegations, which he said lack credibility.

“As far as I know, as I stand here today, there is not one single parent that we have heard from that has said that their child did not get a vaccine, and that they submitted false records to any school district,” Russo said, adding the Health Department allegations are based on grand jury testimony from an employee of DeVuono.

While declining to speak to Collins at sentencing, DeVuono did address reporters outside the courtroom, quoting Thomas Jefferson in saying, “When a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey but he is morally obligated to do so.”

Devuono said she believes front-line workers deserved to have the right to refuse the vaccine.

“The real crime here is that thousands of essential front-line workers who worked during COVID, cops, nurses … we weren’t staying home, on Zoom, baking sourdough bread. If those people feared the vaccine more than they feared getting COVID, anybody in our society has the right to decide for themselves,” DeVuono said.

DeVuono, who had pleaded guilty to felony charges of second-degree money laundering and second-degree forgery, as well as first-degree filing of a false instrument for writing bogus oxycodone prescriptions for herself in the name of her brother, was also stripped of her nursing license by the judge.

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, prosecutors said.

The shots were then falsely reported to the state while the vaccine doses, which were scarce at the time and difficult for Americans to obtain, were dumped into a trash can by DeVuono, Urraro or clinic receptionist Brooke Hogan, of Patchogue, prosecutors said.

Collins on Tuesday said DeVuono and her staff tossed “thousands of vials of needed medicine.”

“And, yes, people died,” the judge said.

 Prosecutors said the nurses entered the false information into the New York State Immunization Information System, a statewide vaccination database.

Urraro and Hogan were both criminally charged with roles in the scheme but cooperated with prosecutors. 

From June 15, 2021, through Jan. 27, 2022, adult patients paid $220 to $350 per fake shot recorded with the state, according to a civil forfeiture complaint filed by Suffolk District Attorney Ray Tierney against DeVuono last year. Bogus 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. 

DeVuono said Tuesday that other individuals on Long Island were selling fraudulent cards for $500 and $1,000 in New York City.

“I had to charge something because I had to cover my extra expenses of keeping my office open longer and hiring staff,” DeVuono said. “But I charged less than half of the going rate.”

 DeVuono said other people faced lesser consequences after she was made “an example of.” 

DeVuono and Urraro were arrested in January 2022 after they allegedly forged COVID-19 vaccine cards for an undercover detective without administering the vaccination. Hogan was charged the following month.

While executing a search warrant of DeVuono’s home, authorities seized approximately $900,000 in cash with a ledger documenting profits in excess of $1.5 million from the alleged illegal activity, prosecutors said.

DeVuono laundered the proceeds of the scheme by authorizing a $236,980 wire transfer just three days after her arrest to pay the balance on a mortgage for the house owned by her husband, an NYPD pilot who retired in December 2022, according to the civil forfeiture complaint.

 The alleged fake COVID-19 vaccine card 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 2022 those teachers, 27 of whom previously had been granted tenure and were not criminally charged, should be returned to the classroom and awarded back pay. 

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

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