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'Paramedic of the Year' recipient in Florida charged with helping steal doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Moderna Vaccine
Posted at 8:20 AM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 17:21:55-05

A Florida paramedic has been arrested for his alleged involvement in the theft of several doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

Polk County Fire Rescue paramedic Joshua Colon, 31, was named Paramedic of the Year in 2020, but on Monday he was arrested for stealing the vaccine and forging screening and consent forms. Colon told detectives he was directed to do so by his supervisor.

“It’s absolutely disappointing. Not only were we responsible for holding public trust, but we had a special duty and that was to deliver the vaccine to first responders that are out there, that are helping the public,” Fire Rescue Chief Robert Weech said.

On Jan. 6, Colon received three doses containing the vaccine and was directed to administer them to first responders.

Colon told deputies that his supervisor, Capt. Anthony Damiano, joked with him about taking some vaccine doses for Damiano's mother. Colon said Damiano told him to report those vaccines as waste.

According to the arrest report, Colon initially refused, but Damiano threatened to tell Colon’s supervisors that he was stealing and selling vaccines.

Colon said that he was ordered to go on his lunch break later that day by Damiano. The vaccines were left in a refrigerator with a label tab. When Colon returned to the station, he said he noticed the label tab had been tampered with and three doses of the vaccines were missing. He did not report the incident to anyone within Polk County Fire Rescue.

Colon told deputies that when he was later asked to document the total number of doses administered, he created a fake name, email addresses and phone numbers, to show that each vaccine was accounted for.

“The bottom line is, Joshua tried to cover for the captain. Joshua set up the circumstance for the vaccines to have been stolen. Had Joshua simply gone to his boss right then, he’d have been the hero,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.

Meanwhile, many Polk County residents have struggled to get an appointment to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. After weeks of trying to get vaccinated, Donna Durham finally got one last week.

“I’m disappointed in people that we put our trust into, that are supposed to be out here helping us, and they’re taking advantage of the situation. There’s just no word for it," she said.

Colon is charged with four counts of forgery, four counts of uttering a forged instrument, four counts of falsifying medical records, one count of official misconduct, one count of criminal use of a personal ID and two counts of creating a fictional personal ID.

Colon was released after posting bond and has resigned from Polk County Fire Rescue.

Damiano is currently under criminal investigation. He has been with Polk Fire Rescue for 17 years and a captain for 14.

"We will talk to him either late tonight or in the morning, he might as well go and turn himself in. You can run but you can't hide," Judd said.

Polk Fire Rescue paramedic arrested in the theft of COVID-19 vaccine vials | Press Conference

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story previously claimed that Colon is being accused of stealing three vials of the coronavirus vaccine. This story has been updated to reflect that Colon is being accused of stealing three doses of the vaccine.

This story was originally published by Dan Trujillo on WFTS in Tampa, Florida.

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