The owner of the Gabriela Pharmacy located in Juana Díaz pleaded guilty after having administered the covid-19 vaccine to a score of minors between the ages of seven and 11, federal prosecutor Stephen Muldrow reported.
Liz Ann Banchs was charged last September 24 with conspiracy to convert government property and commit fraud for the illegal vaccination of minors with the Pfizer vaccine.
Banchs pleaded guilty that same day, it emerged today.
It is alleged that during the period from May 28 to June 22, 2021, Banchs and employees of the Juanadina branch of Farmacia Gabriela, Inc. conspired to knowingly and deliberately administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children age 11 or younger and submit the corresponding Medicaid claims to MC-21.
It was indicated that a total of 24 children between 7 and 11 years old were administered the vaccine, in full dose, without legal authority to do so as part of the conspiracy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) vaccination program against covid-19 required that eligible pharmacies, such as Farmacia Gabriela, Inc., meet all the requirements established by the Food Administration and United States Medicines (FDA), including the Emergency Use Authorization, which allowed the administration of the Pfizer-BioNTech covid vaccine to people 12 years of age and older.
“It is important to note that the EUA (Emergency Use Authorization granted by the FDA) has not approved the administration of the Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine to children under 11 years of age. As a result, the administration of the vaccine to children 7 to 11 years old represents an unauthorized and illegal administration of the vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine lots in question were owned by the United States government and were illegally converted without the authorization of the United States, ”the press release reads.
Gabriela Pharmacy, Inc. was not authorized to file claims with MC-21 – the Medicaid pharmacy benefits manager in Puerto Rico – for the illegal and unauthorized administration of the Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine to children ages 7 to 11 years.
Banchs’ illicit activity was identified by the Puerto Rico Department of Health and the covid-19 vaccination program was subsequently suspended at Farmacia Gabriela, Inc.
To date, no serious medical conditions have been identified as a result of the illegal vaccination program and all funds received for the corresponding Medicaid bills have been voluntarily returned to the United States.
Along with the guilty plea, Banchs has voluntarily agreed to be excluded as a provider of Medicare, Medicaid, and all federal health care programs for a period of five years.
The now convicted woman faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $ 250,000 and three years of supervised release.
“Pharmacists are among the most trusted professionals,” said Attorney Muldrow.
“This person used his special access to illegally vaccinate children under 12, putting their health at risk. The Justice Department will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to ensure that the public receives safe and effective vaccines, “he added.
Meanwhile, the special agent in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services of the Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG, in English), assigned to the New York region, Scott Lampert, indicated: “The safety of our citizens is what first, especially when we are dealing with keeping children safe. “
Lampert stated that there are clear guidelines established by public health agencies regarding who is eligible to receive the covid-19 vaccine at this time.
“We will not deviate from our mission to protect the public and the federal health care programs that serve them,” he said.