Rodney and Ekaterina Baker plead guilty to COVID-19 vaccine scam after chartering plane & flying to indigenous territory and cutting line to get vaccinated while putting others in danger.
A casino mogul and his actress wife from Vancouver, Canada have pled guilty to cutting the line earlier this year to get access to the COVID-19 vaccine after chartering a plane to a remote Yukon Territory and pretending to be local motel workers.
Rodney Baker, a 55 year old casino executive, and his 32 year old actress wife Ekaterina entered guilty pleas Wednesday to charges of failing to adhere to an entry declaration form and failing to self-isolate, according to the CBC.
The plea comes after the well to do couple flew a private plane to the Yukon Territory and posed as local motel workers to get a COVID-19 vaccination intended for vulnerable remote Indigenous residents.
The couple, who reportedly earned $36 million in stock options last year, were fined a total of $2,300 and avoided jail time. They were facing up to six months behind bars for the January scam.
The Vancouver power couple told staff they were new workers at a local motel, only to raise suspicions when they asked for a ride back to the airport after getting their shots, instead of going to quarantine in nearby Whitestone.
When wealth & status can’t buy you access resort to fraud
‘Fortunately, nothing physical happened in this case, no one got COVID as a result,’ Yukon Territorial Court Judge Michael Cozens reportedly said as he sentenced the jet-setting couple, who appeared in court virtually.
‘There was harm, but the harm wasn’t anyone catching COVID. It was certainly psychological.’
Beaver Creek (pop. 100) had been prioritized for vaccination due to the vulnerability of its remote residents, most of whom are members of the White River First Nation.
News of the Baker’s fraudulent scheme caused outrage far beyond the lightly-populated northern Canadian province.
Rodney Baker stepped down from his role as the president and CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, which owns more than 20 casinos, following international backlash over his admitted exploits.
Janet VanderMeer of the White River First Nation delivered a victim impact statement on behalf of the community Wednesday, according to CBC.
‘There was never a thought in our mind that someone would take advantage of our situation as a small, remote community,’ VanderMeer said, adding the community was ‘shocked and outraged’ by the wealthy couple’s actions, which caused a lingering feeling of ‘insecurity and distrust,’ CBC reported.
High level of deception
‘Educate yourself. Educate yourself on First Nations people, on small communities. Educate yourself, please.’
The Bakers did not address the court, but defense lawyer Jennifer Cunningham reportedly said they ‘apologize unreservedly for their actions,’ and the incident was ‘out of character.’
Prosecutors said the there was ‘high level of deception’ in the couple’s vaccination stunt, which cost a significant amount of money to pull off, they noted.
Ultimately, lawyers agreed the couple did not deserve jail time due to their cooperation with officials, and their willingness to take a COVID-19 test, which came back negative, the CBC reported.