A Wisconsin man agreed to plead guilty Tuesday to tampering with doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
He faces two charges of attempting to tamper with consumer products placing in danger of death or bodily injury to those given the doses.
Forty-six-year-old pharmacist Steven Brandenburg formerly worked at the Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wis. And on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day he removed a box of the Moderna vaccine from the pharmacy refrigerator for multiple hours.
DOJ officials said Brandenburg, who has spent the last 23 years as a licensed pharmacist, knew this would leave the vaccines inert and/or less effective.
The FDA, FBI and the Grafton Police Department began investigating reports of Brandenburg’s alleged acts of sabotage in late December.
Over the course of their investigation, authorities discovered that Brandenburg had believed conspiracy theories and notions of “alternative history.” He shared these beliefs with coworkers at the medical center.
He was wary of vaccines, especially the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Fifty-seven individuals at the medical center received doses of the vaccine that Brandenburg allegedly tampered with. Each carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each plus a $250,000 fine.
The FBI’s Milwaukee Special Agent in Charge Robert Hughes said,
“Pharmacists rank among some of the most trusted professionals.
This individual used his special access to tamper with vials of the much needed COVID-19 vaccine. The FBI takes allegations of consumer product tampering very seriously and will use all available resources to bring those to justice who intentionally put the public’s health at risk.”
Brandenburg also faces a state misdemeanor charge and has is free while awaiting that case.