Hawai’i tourists caught with fake vaccination cards

"We've been pretty aggressive in enforcing and prosecuting those violators that we have become aware of," said Governor David Ige

Two tourists are facing up to one year in prison and a $5000 fine after allegedly falsifying vaccine cards to travel to Hawai’i last Sunday.

U.S. mainlanders Norbert Chung, 57, and Trevor Chung, 19, were detained and arrested by the Department of the Attorney General at a Honolulu airport after officials say they got a tip from a community member prior to their arrival.

Biden Administration Reinstates COVID Travel Ban For Non-US Residents
People wait for a flight at an international terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) on January 25, 2021 in New York City. In an effort to further control Covid-19 transmission, President Joe Biden plans to sign restrictions on travel to the United States. The ban will prohibit travelers from the United Kingdom, Ireland and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders, called the Schengen Area. The new measures will also block entry to travelers from Brazil and South Africa. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The two were accused of violating Hawai’i’s Safe Travel program, which requires travelers from the U.S. to either bypass a pre-travel test by having proof of vaccination or go into a mandatory 10-day quarantine upon arrival. The two mainlanders were arraigned Thursday morning.

“The Department of the Attorney General will investigate and prosecute those who cheat the Safe Travels program, which was established to keep our islands safe,” said Gary Yamashiroya, a spokesperson for state Attorney General Clare Connors

This is the first case of fraudulent vaccination documentation under the Safe Travels program.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Hawai’i Governor David Ige addressed the travelers and indicated that Hawai’i law enforcement is taking the violation seriously.

“We’ve been pretty aggressive in enforcing and prosecuting those violators that we have become aware of,” the Democratic Governor said. “We have pursued quarantine violations. We do have a case where we had travelers forging vaccination records that we’ve filed charges against.”

Since the start of the pandemic in 2019, the state has had nearly 48,000 cases and more than 540 deaths. However, August 2021 has been the worst month of cases for four out of the five counties in Hawai’i.

The state’s department of health reported that there were 1,167 new cases and one death from the coronavirus just this week, the highest ever COVID-19 case. The counties of Honolulu, Maui, Kauai and Hawai’i have each reported a more than 100% increase in cases from the numbers two weeks ago. For Kauai, it was a 369% increase.

61.1% of the state’s residents are currently vaccinated.

The Safe Travels program was designed to be a preventative measure for residents and travelers “to the island ensure that all travelers remain safe and healthy” according to the State of Hawai’i COVID portal website.

The state has reintroduced new restrictions on social gatherings, restaurants, bars and establishments as the number of cases increases amid the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the virus. 

And although Ige has stated that law enforcement is “short-staffed, and unable to fully police,” he assured the residents that they will try their best to respond to every violation they see.

“…I do believe collectively that we’re going to make an effort to enforce,” Ige added. “It is important that these restrictions be implemented in order to slow the spread of the virus.”

According to the Safe Travels program page, once the state reaches a 70% vaccination rate amongst residents, all restrictions on travel will be lifted.

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s “Dear Culture” podcast? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Download theGrio.com today!