Florida Man Once Named 'Paramedic of the Year' Charged for Role in Theft of COVID-19 Vaccines
A Florida man, who was previously named "Paramedic of the Year" in the state, has been charged after telling police that he played a role in the alleged theft of COVID-19 vaccine doses.
On Monday, Joshua Colon — a Polk County fire rescue paramedic, who is also a training officer — was arrested after he allegedly forged vaccine screening and consent forms to cover up what he claimed was a supervisor's theft of doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Department.
Colon, 31, was charged with four counts of forgery, four counts of uttering a forged instrument, four counts of falsifying medical records, two counts of creating a fictional personal ID, as well as criminal use of personal ID and official misconduct, according to the sheriff's office news release.
"The investigation is ongoing, including what role the supervisor has in the theft of the vaccines and the creation of fraudulent and forged medical records," the Polk County Sheriff's Office said.
According to a release from the sheriff's office, Colon received three vials of the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 6 and was instructed to give it to Polk County firefighters that same day.
Colon later reported that he administered 28 vaccines and two were disposed of before he retracted his report and said that he had actually administered 27 vaccines and three were waste.
After a request, Colon only provided 21 completed vaccine screening and consent forms and a log, but the log contained 23 vaccine recipients, meaning two forms were missing.
Colon told officials he would get the missing information that was needed before he later reported three names of firefighters he said were recipients of the vaccines. When contacted during the investigation, the two firefighters said they never received their doses. The third name provided by Colon belonged to a person who did not exist.
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When deputies later met with Colon, the paramedic admitted that he created and signed the three forms himself.
Colon claimed to deputies that a supervisor joked with him about storing some of the vaccines for the supervisor's mother. He claimed that the supervisor instructed him to report the missing vaccines as waste.
"According to Colon, he refused to provide those vaccines to the supervisor, at which time the supervisor said he would tell those higher up in the chain of command that Colon was selling vaccines outside of work," the sheriff's office news release said.
Colon claimed that he later noticed three vaccines were missing after returning from a lunch break. "Colon advised he did not question his supervisor in reference to the missing vaccines, however, he immediately became suspicious. Colon did not report this incident to anyone within Polk County Fire Rescue," the statement added.
In a statement given to CNN, Colon's attorney, David R. Carmichael said his client "encountered a very difficult situation when a supervisor demanded Mr. Colon provide unauthorized doses of Covid Vaccine … for use by the supervisors family."
Colon — who was previously deemed "Paramedic of the Year" for his actions after a highway crash, according to a Polk County Fire Rescue social media post — was released on bond.
In his statement to CNN, Carmichael added that Colon "deeply regrets his weakness in failing to alert the Chain of Command to the theft of the vaccine, accepts responsibility for his error in covering up the theft, and in an effort to protect the reputation of his agency, has resigned his position."
According to NBC News, Colon's supervisor is Polk County Fire Rescue Captain Anthony Damiano. A Polk County Sheriff's Department spokesperson told the outlet that Damiano was "at large" as of Tuesday afternoon and that charges against him were "imminent."
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