WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — A Central Florida man who won Paramedic of the Year honors last year is accused of stealing COVID-19 vaccines meant for first responders, authorities said.
Joshua Colon, 31, is charged with four counts of forgery, four counts of uttering a forged instrument, four counts of falsifying medical records, one count of criminal use of personal identification and two counts of creating a fictional personal ID, according to Polk County online booking records.
Colon was released after posting bail, according to the booking records.
According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, Colon, who worked for Polk County Fire Rescue, said he stole three vaccines of Moderna earlier this month at the request of his supervisor, Capt. Tony Damiano, who wanted the vaccine for his elderly mother, The Ledger of Lakeland reported.
Colon then forged the paperwork in an attempt to cover his actions, the newspaper reported.
Judd said Colon initially refused to take the vaccines, but told investigators that Damiano threatened to inform officials that the paramedic was selling the vaccines outside of work.
“Joshua tried to cover for the captain, Joshua set up the circumstances for vaccines to be stolen,” Judd said. “Had Joshua simply gone to his boss right then, he would have been a hero.”
Polk County Fire Rescue has been assigned the task of delivering COVID vaccines to first responders in Polk County, WFLA reported. Colon was responsible for administering those vaccines. According to the sheriff’s office, Colon received three vials containing 10 vaccines each on Jan. 6 and was directed to administer those to first responders at a fire station in Davenport, located in eastern Polk County.
According to an affidavit, Colon was asked at the end of his shift to report the total number of doses administered and reported 28, with two not good, WTSP reported. Colon later changed that number to 27, noting that three of the vaccines were “waste,” the television station reported.
“We have a responsibility to uphold the community’s trust. We found in one of these opportunities we didn’t do that,” Robert Weech, chief of Polk County Fire Rescue said at the news conference. “We are deeply disappointed.”
Colon resigned Friday and was arrested Monday, The Ledger reported.
Two weeks ago, Colon was honored for his actions during a serious multi-vehicle accident in Polk County.
Damiano, a 17-year veteran, is under investigation, according to The Ledger. He was deployed to California to aid in the pandemic response as a member of the National Disaster Medical System, the newspaper reported.
Judd said he expected to arrest Damiano when he returns to Florida.
“He might as well turn himself in,” Judd told reporters. “You can run but you can’t hide. The deal is over.”
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