ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Employees and the owner of a local midwife practice are facing federal charges over allegedly running a fraudulent COVID-19 vaccine clinic. This is among a recent series of cases brought against people across the U.S. who allegedly committed fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Federal officials say that from the outside, Sage-Femme Midwifery on Washington Avenue looked like one of the busiest vaccination sites giving out the Johnson and Johnson shot in New York State. However, court documents detail thousands of false entries in the state’s vaccination database, and fake vaccination cards distributed to people who hadn’t gotten their shot.
“This is the broader effort of the United States government to go back and try and enforce a lot of the violations that took place during the initial COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tully Rinckey Attorney Ryan McCall.
Licensed midwife Kelly McDermott, who owns Sage-Femme Midwifery, as well as employee Kathleen Breault, another midwife, have been charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States.
According to a grand jury indictment, they enrolled Sage-Femme as an authorized COVID-19 vaccine administration site with the state Department of Health. Along with unnamed conspirators, they allegedly destroyed vials of COVID-19 vaccines that they had received.
Despite the accusations and charges, a slew of Facebook comments on McDermott’s page indicate support. Among them is Lauren Strait, who said the midwife was by her side for three of her home births.
“The level of care and insight and guidance far surpasses any hiccup or mishap that could be set against her, and it doesn’t change how I think of her at all,” said Strait.
The fraud allegations were first identified through the investigative work of the Department of Health’s Vaccination Complaint Investigations Team, which referred the matter to the FBI.
“We’re proud of the Department’s contributions to this and other cases of vaccination fraud investigated and prosecuted statewide, as we remain focused on rooting out fraud to preserve the integrity of the COVID-19 vaccine program, protect public health, and ensure access to vaccines for everyone,” DOH spokesperson Cadence Acquaviva wrote in a statement. “We thank the FBI’s Health Care Fraud Task Force for its partnership on this case and our other partners in law enforcement—federal and state alike—for their continued collaboration with the Department around investigation and prosecution of anyone involved in vaccination fraud.”
Conspiracy to defraud the U.S. carries a penalty of a fine, and or, up to five years in prison. NEWS10 reached out to Kelly McDermott for comment but did not receive a response.
Another employee of Sage-Femme, Sherilyn Pellitteri, of Kentucky, previously pleaded guilty in connection with the same conspiracy.