A Polk County Fire Rescue paramedic won’t be the only person charged in the alleged theft of COVID-19 vaccine dosages. A Fire Captain will be arrested, too, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said during a press conference on Tuesday.
Investigators in Florida say this case landed on their radar after paramedic Joshua Colon, 31, turned in some highly irregular paperwork. He had been ordered to administer vaccines to first responders. On Jan. 6, he got three vials, each containing 10 dosages. Colon allegedly claimed at first to have administered 28, and two ended up as waste because of overexposure (which deputies said is normal). He changed that number to 27 administered, and three wasted. But the defendant only handed in 21 completed screening and consent forms, and a log containing 23 names, authorities said. It was all messed up.
Polk County Fire Rescue Chief Robert Weech said that Colon had done this work before without incident.
This time was different. Judd said Colon admitted to using the name of a former firefighter, making up a person, and of using a similar-sounding name to that of a real firefighter. In this account, Colon claimed that Fire Captain Anthony Damiano demanded the vaccine for his mother. Colon said no. Damiano insisted. Things allegedly got sinister, with the captain saying that he would tell their superiors Colon was selling vaccines.
According to authorities, the paramedic put three sealed syringes of the vaccine in a special refrigerator. The captain told him to take a break. He did. Colon returned to find the vaccinations–a total of three doses–gone. The implication is that Damiano took those.
Judd said text messages between the captain and an innocent bystander substantiated the captain’s connection to the theft. Deputies executed a search warrant, and recovered two of the dosages from a vehicle. The whereabouts of the third is unknown. Weech told reporters that the recovered dosages were not usable.
Colon is charged with four counts of forgery, four counts of uttering forged instrument, four counts of falsifying medical records, one count of official misconduct, one count of criminal use of personal identification, and two counts of creating fictional personal identification. He was released after posting bond. His attorney did not immediately respond to a Law&Crime request for comment. Weech, who said Colon once won a “Paramedic of the Year” award, called the case out of character for the defendant.
Judd said that Damiano is set to return to Florida from out west, and should be arrested sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday. The charges would be theft, and official misconduct.
Colon resigned on Monday, Weech said. Damiano remains an employee on “good standing,” though the chief said that may soon change.
[Mugshot via Polk County Sheriff’s Office]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]