An attorney for Julie DeVuono, who plead guilty in September...

An attorney for Julie DeVuono, who plead guilty in September to running a fake COVID vaccination card scam, said she never signed fraudulent vaccination records for other vaccines. Credit: James Carbone

The Suffolk and Nassau County health departments are advising schools to not accept measles, chickenpox and other immunization records from an Amityville pediatric practice whose owner was convicted of issuing fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards.

The health department recommendations, issued in October, could potentially affect thousands of children in Long Island schools whose vaccination certificates are from Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare. If the recommendations are followed by the districts, parents may be asked to provide test results from blood samples that indicate whether their children were immunized against some diseases and may need to receive immunizations from a different health care provider.

Chad LaVeglia, an attorney representing several parents who oppose requirements for new proofs of vaccination, said Thursday night that he knows of two districts — Rocky Point and Smithtown — that are following the health department recommendations, but there may be others.

Other districts, he said, “rescinded” such policies after parents contacted them, and still others may have revoked such policies after attorneys other than himself contacted them.

Rocky Point’s superintendent, Scott O’Brien, issued a statement late Thursday that said: “The District will adhere to the direction of the Department of Health in assuring that our students are immunized so that the safety of all can be safeguarded. Unfortunately, the Department of Health has questioned whether Wild Child Pediatrics actually administered the required vaccinations. We will follow the Department of Health recommendation to verify claimed immunizations recorded by the nurse-practitioner.”

Smithtown school officials didn’t immediately respond to queries Thursday evening. Representatives of 11 school districts within several miles of Wild Child either declined to say whether their district requires a new proof of vaccination or did not return phone calls.

LaVeglia, who has offices in Uniondale and Hauppauge, argued the charges the medical practice owner was convicted of have “nothing to do with the specific children’s cards that are being questioned” and that the districts have no reason to doubt the childhood vaccination certificates are valid.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office said in an email that “there was no evidence that anyone received non-COVID fake immunization cards.”

Suffolk County prosecutors say nurse practitioner Julie DeVuono ran a fake vaccination card operation out of Wild Child that earned more than $1.5 million in profit. She charged $85 to $350 between June 2021 and January 2022 for each false entry on COVID-19 vaccination cards and to the state’s Immunization Information System, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office said.

The fake vaccination cards were issued during a time when some health care systems, schools, colleges, governments and businesses required COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees or students. Some employees were fired if they did not show proof of vaccination.

DeVuono and her corporation, Kids-On-Call Pediatric Nurse Practitioner P.C., pleaded guilty in September to felony charges of second-degree money laundering and second-degree forgery.

She also pleaded guilty to one count of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree for obtaining illegal oxycodone prescriptions for herself in the name of relatives.

As part of the plea deal, DeVuono surrendered her nursing licenses, closed her practice and agreed to forfeit more than $1.25 million. Her sentencing, which is expected to include 5 years probation, 840 hours of community service and $15,000 in fines, is scheduled for Jan. 8 in Suffolk County Supreme Court in Riverhead.

Jason Russo, an attorney for DeVuono, said she never signed fraudulent vaccination records for anything but COVID-19 vaccines.

“It was purely confined to COVID, because frankly, that's what people were coming to her for her to do,” he said.

Russo, who said DeVuono’s practice provided vaccines to between 500 and 1,000 children a year, accused the two health departments of “creating an unprecedented scare among the community, a baseless scare.”

But the health departments told Newsday in separate emails with similar wording that school districts had inquired about how to handle students with Wild Child records, “and questions have been raised about the validity of the records presented.”

The two departments are advising that schools ask students with Wild Child immunization records to obtain blood tests that verify whether there are antibodies that were created by vaccinations against hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella. Some vaccines — such as one against pertussis and tetanus — cannot be detected via blood tests, the departments said, and, if the child’s only proof of immunization is from Wild Child, they recommend vaccination from another health care provider.

The departments said the letters to school districts contained only recommendations, not mandates.

The state requires seven vaccines for kindergarten through 12th grade, depending on the vaccine and age of the student. Some vaccines — such as one for measles, mumps and rubella — provide protection against multiple diseases.

Dr. Leonard Krilov, an infectious disease specialist and chairman of pediatrics at NYU Langone Hospital-Long Island in Mineola, said childhood immunizations are important to prevent outbreaks of diseases like the measles and chickenpox, which can cause serious illness in a small percentage of children and adults. Hepatitis B can cause severe liver damage or death, rubella can cause severe defects in newborns, and other diseases for which immunization is required can also cause severe illness, he said.

LaVeglia, who has in the past represented opponents of COVID-19 vaccination and mask mandates, said his clients are not anti-vaccine.

“They are upset that these districts are suddenly questioning the certificate of immunization they had already provided,” he said.

The parents, he said, “are in full compliance with the law.”

Russo said “thousands” of people purchased the fake COVID-19 vaccination cards from DeVuono. The district attorney’s office said the records seized from DeVuono do not indicate the identities of those who bought the cards.

It’s unclear how many children are affected. The districts that declined to say whether they will require a new proof of vaccination or did not return phone calls are: Amityville, Babylon, Copiague, Farmingdale, Lindenhurst, Massapequa, Plainedge, Seaford, Wantagh, West Babylon and West Islip.

The heads of the Nassau and Suffolk superintendents associations also did not respond to phone calls and emails.

LaVeglia said he represents parents from the Smithtown district and asked the district to rescind its policy. He said he is awaiting a response.

“The parents are trying to avoid litigation,” he said.

With Sandra Peddie

The Suffolk and Nassau County health departments are advising schools to not accept measles, chickenpox and other immunization records from an Amityville pediatric practice whose owner was convicted of issuing fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards.

The health department recommendations, issued in October, could potentially affect thousands of children in Long Island schools whose vaccination certificates are from Wild Child Pediatric Healthcare. If the recommendations are followed by the districts, parents may be asked to provide test results from blood samples that indicate whether their children were immunized against some diseases and may need to receive immunizations from a different health care provider.

Chad LaVeglia, an attorney representing several parents who oppose requirements for new proofs of vaccination, said Thursday night that he knows of two districts — Rocky Point and Smithtown — that are following the health department recommendations, but there may be others.

Other districts, he said, “rescinded” such policies after parents contacted them, and still others may have revoked such policies after attorneys other than himself contacted them.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The Suffolk and Nassau County health departments are recommending that schools not accept measles, chickenpox and other immunization records from an Amityville pediatric practice whose owner was convicted of issuing fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards.
  • An attorney identified two districts that are following the recommendations, but others that initially adapted them have since rescinded them, he said.
  • The health departments said there are concerns about the validity of the childhood immunization records. The Suffolk District Attorney’s Office said there is no evidence non-COVID-19 vaccine records were falsified.

Rocky Point’s superintendent, Scott O’Brien, issued a statement late Thursday that said: “The District will adhere to the direction of the Department of Health in assuring that our students are immunized so that the safety of all can be safeguarded. Unfortunately, the Department of Health has questioned whether Wild Child Pediatrics actually administered the required vaccinations. We will follow the Department of Health recommendation to verify claimed immunizations recorded by the nurse-practitioner.”

Smithtown school officials didn’t immediately respond to queries Thursday evening. Representatives of 11 school districts within several miles of Wild Child either declined to say whether their district requires a new proof of vaccination or did not return phone calls.

LaVeglia, who has offices in Uniondale and Hauppauge, argued the charges the medical practice owner was convicted of have “nothing to do with the specific children’s cards that are being questioned” and that the districts have no reason to doubt the childhood vaccination certificates are valid.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office said in an email that “there was no evidence that anyone received non-COVID fake immunization cards.”

Suffolk County prosecutors say nurse practitioner Julie DeVuono ran a fake vaccination card operation out of Wild Child that earned more than $1.5 million in profit. She charged $85 to $350 between June 2021 and January 2022 for each false entry on COVID-19 vaccination cards and to the state’s Immunization Information System, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office said.

The fake vaccination cards were issued during a time when some health care systems, schools, colleges, governments and businesses required COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees or students. Some employees were fired if they did not show proof of vaccination.

DeVuono and her corporation, Kids-On-Call Pediatric Nurse Practitioner P.C., pleaded guilty in September to felony charges of second-degree money laundering and second-degree forgery.

She also pleaded guilty to one count of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree for obtaining illegal oxycodone prescriptions for herself in the name of relatives.

As part of the plea deal, DeVuono surrendered her nursing licenses, closed her practice and agreed to forfeit more than $1.25 million. Her sentencing, which is expected to include 5 years probation, 840 hours of community service and $15,000 in fines, is scheduled for Jan. 8 in Suffolk County Supreme Court in Riverhead.

Jason Russo, an attorney for DeVuono, said she never signed fraudulent vaccination records for anything but COVID-19 vaccines.

“It was purely confined to COVID, because frankly, that's what people were coming to her for her to do,” he said.

Russo, who said DeVuono’s practice provided vaccines to between 500 and 1,000 children a year, accused the two health departments of “creating an unprecedented scare among the community, a baseless scare.”

'Questions' about validity of records

But the health departments told Newsday in separate emails with similar wording that school districts had inquired about how to handle students with Wild Child records, “and questions have been raised about the validity of the records presented.”

The two departments are advising that schools ask students with Wild Child immunization records to obtain blood tests that verify whether there are antibodies that were created by vaccinations against hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella. Some vaccines — such as one against pertussis and tetanus — cannot be detected via blood tests, the departments said, and, if the child’s only proof of immunization is from Wild Child, they recommend vaccination from another health care provider.

The departments said the letters to school districts contained only recommendations, not mandates.

The state requires seven vaccines for kindergarten through 12th grade, depending on the vaccine and age of the student. Some vaccines — such as one for measles, mumps and rubella — provide protection against multiple diseases.

Dr. Leonard Krilov, an infectious disease specialist and chairman of pediatrics at NYU Langone Hospital-Long Island in Mineola, said childhood immunizations are important to prevent outbreaks of diseases like the measles and chickenpox, which can cause serious illness in a small percentage of children and adults. Hepatitis B can cause severe liver damage or death, rubella can cause severe defects in newborns, and other diseases for which immunization is required can also cause severe illness, he said.

LaVeglia, who has in the past represented opponents of COVID-19 vaccination and mask mandates, said his clients are not anti-vaccine.

“They are upset that these districts are suddenly questioning the certificate of immunization they had already provided,” he said.

The parents, he said, “are in full compliance with the law.”

Russo said “thousands” of people purchased the fake COVID-19 vaccination cards from DeVuono. The district attorney’s office said the records seized from DeVuono do not indicate the identities of those who bought the cards.

It’s unclear how many children are affected. The districts that declined to say whether they will require a new proof of vaccination or did not return phone calls are: Amityville, Babylon, Copiague, Farmingdale, Lindenhurst, Massapequa, Plainedge, Seaford, Wantagh, West Babylon and West Islip.

The heads of the Nassau and Suffolk superintendents associations also did not respond to phone calls and emails.

LaVeglia said he represents parents from the Smithtown district and asked the district to rescind its policy. He said he is awaiting a response.

“The parents are trying to avoid litigation,” he said.

With Sandra Peddie

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