‘Paramedic of the Year’ arrested in theft of Florida COVID vaccines

National News

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida healthcare worker recognized as Polk County’s 2020 Paramedic of the Year was arrested by the sheriff’s office Tuesday after allegedly helping a supervisor steal coronavirus vaccines meant for the county’s first responders.

According to the police report, 31-year-old Joshua Colon stole three doses’ worth of the Moderna vaccine, then forged the vaccine screening and consent forms.

Colon later told detectives he was directed to do so by his supervisor, a captain with the fire department who Grady said will likely be arrested upon his return home Tuesday night from California, where he was helping with COVID relief efforts, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

Polk County Fire Rescue has been assigned to deliver COVID vaccines to first responders in the county, and Colon had been tasked with administering those vaccines. On Jan. 6, Colon received three vials containing 10 vaccines each, and was directed to administer those to first responders at Station 38 in Davenport.

Days later, Colon was questioned regarding inconsistencies with vaccine screening and consent forms. According to deputies, Colon provided consent forms with names of three different people – one who didn’t exist, a second falsified name similar to that of a current firefighter and the name of a former firefighter who later told fire officials he had never received a vaccine.

Colon met with detectives at his lawyer’s office, telling them that on the day of the incident, his supervisor, Fire Rescue Capt. Anthony Damiano, joked with him about getting some vaccines for his mother. He said he was told by Damiano to report the vaccines as being no good. Colon told detectives he refused to provide those vaccines to his supervisor, at which time his supervisor threatened he would tell a higher up in the chain of command that Colon was selling the vaccines outside of work.

Colon said he was ordered to go on his lunch break by his supervisor later that day. When he returned to the station, he said he noticed the label tab was tampered with and three syringes of the vaccine were missing. Colon said he did not question Damiano about them or report the incident to anyone in the fire department.

Colon told deputies that when he was later asked for the documents for accountability purposes, he completed the forms to show each vaccine was accounted for and that he created fictitious names, email addresses and phone numbers.

“The bottom line is, Joshua tried to cover for the captain,” Judd said at a press conference Tuesday. “Joshua set up the circumstance for the vaccines to have been stolen. Had Joshua simply gone to his boss right then he would have been the hero.”

Judd said he expects Damiano, who is driving an RV across the county, to be arrested when he gets home.

Colon was taken into custody on Monday, January 25, 2021, and charged with:

  • 4 counts forgery (F3) $1,000 bond each
  • 4 counts uttering forged instrument (F3) $1,000 bond each
  • 4 counts falsifying medical records (M2) $250 bond each
  • 1 count official misconduct (F3) $1,000 bond each
  • 1 count criminal use of personal ID (F3) $1,000 bond each
  • 2 counts creating fictional personal ID (F3) $1,000 bond each

Colon was recently recognized for his actions on a “serious” multi-vehicle highway accident.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.