LAKELAND, FL (POLK COUNTY) - According to a news report on TampaBay.com and other news websites, Polk Sheriff Grady Judd reported in a news conference that a longtime Fire Rescue Captain used a decorated paramedic to take three doses of COVID-19 vaccines that were intended for first responders.
The Paramedic, a 31-year-old man, was arrested and now faces many felony charges. According to the suspect's arrest report, the Paramedic has been charged with uttering a false instrument, forgery, criminal use of personal identification, falsifying an official record as a public servant, and creating a fictitious person. The Paramedic resigned from the Polk County Fire Rescue, according to Chief Robert Weech. The Paramedic just received the Paramedic of the Year award in 2020.
According to Polk Sheriff Grady Judd, the Fire Rescue Captain will be arrested shortly. The fire rescue captain is returning from a work project in California. The fire rescue captain was a fire rescue employee for over 17 years, and he has been the fire rescue captain for 14 of the 17 years. The report states that the captain is going to face official misconduct and theft charges.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office began their investigation subsequent to a battalion chief noticing some inconsistencies in the paperwork the suspect filed after he was assigned to vaccinate the other first responders. The suspect had done this type of work before and without issue.
The criminal investigators noticed that the vaccination paperwork for the most recent vaccinations comprised three falsified forms. One form had the name of a former Haines City firefighter, and two other forms used fake names and one that resembled the name of another former Haines City firefighter.
According to Sheriff Judd, Polk County Sherrif deputies interviewed the suspect at his attorney's office. The suspect stated that he did falsify the vaccination paperwork, and the captain asked him to obtain doses of the coronavirus vaccine for the captain's mother. According to the suspect's arrest report, the suspect originally refused. However, the captain threatened to tell the suspect's supervisors that the suspect was taking and selling the coronavirus vaccines, and this threat scared the Paramedic.
The following day, Sheriff Judd stated that the captain ordered the suspect to go to lunch, and the suspect left the vaccines in a refrigerator. According to the suspect's arrest report, after returning from lunch, the suspect discovered that three doses were gone. However, he did not report the theft.
At his attorney's office, the suspect called the captain, and the two talked about the stolen vaccines as Sheriff deputies observed the phone call. The captain told the suspect that the missing vaccination doses were in a car parked by a friend's home in Saint Cloud, Florida. The Sherriff's deputies located two of the doses, but the doses were no longer usable. The other missing dose has not been recovered.
According to the report, the suspect had previously managed other rounds of the coronavirus vaccinations for first responders, and no inconsistencies had been found in those assignments.
Sheriff Judd stated that he expects the captain to be arrested once he is home. The Sheriff was unsure who the captain was trying to obtain vaccines for other than the captain's elderly mother.