HONOLULU - Two tourists from the U.S. mainland were arrested for using fake COVID-19 vaccine cards to visit Hawaii and bypass the state’s travel restrictions, authorities said.
The two people were arrested on Aug. 8 at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu for "falsifying vaccination cards to travel to Hawaii," the Hawaii Attorney General’s Office said. They were later identified as Norbert Chung, 57, and Trevor Chung, 19, local FOX-affiliate news station KHON-TV reported.
Hawaii’s Safe Travels program requires all unvaccinated travelers from the U.S. to undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine or provide a negative test result. Fully vaccinated visitors on domestic flights are allowed to bypass the quarantine rules.
Investigators said the arrests were made "after following up on a tip from a community member."
Both were charged with violating the state’s emergency proclamation by falsifying a vaccination card, an offense that carries a fine of up to $5,000 and up to a year in prison.
"To come to Hawaii and spend thousands of dollars on a trip and hotel and airfare and the money you’re going to spend to enjoy paradise, you’re going to risk that and spend even more money, because you put yourself, your family and others in jeopardy by trying to falsify documents to come and enjoy paradise," Arthur Logan, special agent of criminal investigations for the Department of Attorney General, told KHON.
Officials said this is the first case charged by the Hawaii Department of the Attorney General for falsified vaccination cards.
"Attorney General investigators are committed to ensuring all such leads are investigated and thank the community for their assistance and support," the office said in a statement. "Along those lines, the Department of the Attorney General will investigate and prosecute those who cheat the Safe Travels program, which was established to keep our islands safe."
"Everyone should remember that falsified CDC cards are a federal offense and depending on local laws, a state offense," the Hawaii Attorney General’s Office added.
As public health officials continue to push the need for widespread COVID-19 vaccination to stem the global pandemic, including some requirements by government agencies and large companies, the issue of counterfeit vaccination cards has also popped up online. Federal agents have already seized thousands of fake vaccine cards this year in the U.S.
Customs and Border Protection officers working in Memphis seized another shipment last week — sent from Shenzhen, China and headed to New Orleans — that contained dozens of fake cards, officials said.
In March, the FBI issued a joint statement with the Department of Health and Human Services urging people not to buy, create or sell fabricated vaccine cards. The unauthorized use of the seal of an official government agency is a federal crime.
Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday called for a more intense crackdown by federal law enforcement officials on fake COVID-19 vaccination cards being sold online, including a campaign to make clear that forging the cards could land people in prison. The Senate’s top Democrat also wants the Justice Department to immediately prioritize cases involving fake vaccine cards and is pushing for CBP agents to work harder to find counterfeit cards being sent from overseas.
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.