Julie DeVuono, the Amityville health clinic owner who pleaded guilty...

Julie DeVuono, the Amityville health clinic owner who pleaded guilty to distributing fraudulent vaccine cards to New York City public employees for cash, at court in September. Credit: Tom Lambui

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has fired one Metro-North Railroad employee and suspended 11 Long Island Rail Road workers for submitting fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, which were provided by an Amityville nurse practitioner convicted of a $1.5 million scheme to sell fraudulent cards, MTA officials said Wednesday.

The dozen employees, whom the agency did not identify, were disciplined after an investigation by the MTA inspector general, who reviewed statements by the employees as well as financial information, MTA time and payroll records, and COVID-19 testing records, according to an agency news release.

"The COVID-19 vaccination requirement was implemented to protect MTA workers and the riding public at a time of great uncertainty, but these employees decided the rules don't apply to them," said MTA Inspector General Daniel Cort in the release. "MTA employees who submit fraudulent documents will be caught and face consequences."

The MTA implemented the COVID-19 Vaccine and Test program on Oct. 4, 2021, requiring the vaccination and weekly testing of workers. The investigation began in 2022 after the arrest of Julie DeVuono, a nurse practitioner and owner of Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare in Amityville. She pleaded guilty in September to charges of forging vaccine cards, money laundering and offering a false instrument for filing.

Her sentencing is set for June 11, according to the Suffolk County district attorney's office.

Investigators had obtained a list from the state Health Department of MTA employees who submitted COVID-19 cards claiming they were vaccinated by DeVuono, officials said. The 11 LIRR employees signed agreements admitting to various administrative charges, including submitting false documents and not complying with MTA COVID-19 policies, according to the release.

The MTA ended the vaccine and testing program June 7, 2022.

The Metro-North employee was terminated and the 11 LIRR workers were removed from service in January, with those employees agreeing to serve unpaid suspensions that ranged from 60 to 120 days.

Four of the LIRR workers had admitted not getting vaccinated and paying DeVuono for fake vaccination cards, MTA officials said. Six of the LIRR employees and the terminated Metro-North employee claimed they got vaccinated and paid DeVuono for a homeopathic "detox treatment." The inspector general's office found their accounts "illogical and not credible." The other LIRR worker claimed he got vaccinated at DeVuono's office and did not pay anything. That account, which was contradicted by financial records, was found not to be credible, officials said.

DeVuono admitted that between June 15, 2021, and Jan. 27, 2022, she charged adult customers $220 for a false vaccination entry on their COVID-19 cards and another $220 to enter the false information into the New York State Immunization Information System, a statewide vaccination database.

DeVuono agreed to forfeit criminal proceeds totaling $1.2 million, officials said. She surrendered her professional license as a nurse practitioner and registered professional nurse, and agreed to shut down her pediatric office, officials said.

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