‘Paramedic of the Year’ arrested for stealing COVID-19 vaccines

A Florida paramedic praised just weeks ago as the best in his field has been arrested for stealing three doses of the coronavirus vaccine, sheriff officials said.

Joshua Colon, a 31-year-old paramedic and training officer for Polk County Fire Rescue, was arrested Monday on charges including forgery, official misconduct, uttering a forged instrument and criminal use of a personal ID, sheriff officials announced Tuesday.

Colon, who resigned Friday, allegedly stole three doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine and then forged screening and consent forms. He later told detectives he was instructed to do so by his supervisor – who “joked” with him that day to get vaccines for his mother, an arrest affidavit shows.

An investigation is ongoing into the alleged role of Colon’s supervisor in the theft, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

But Polk County Fire Rescue Capt. Anthony Damiano will also be arrested when he returns from a work assignment in California, the Tampa Bay Times reported, citing a Tuesday news conference held by Sheriff Grady Judd and Fire Rescue Chief Robert Weech.

Just weeks prior to his arrest, Colon was named on Jan. 13 by Polk County Fire Rescue as its “Paramedic of the Year” for 2020 for outstanding service to the community, noting his actions during a serious multi-vehicle wreck on a state highway.

Polk County Fire Rescue paramedic 31-year-old Joshua Colon, intentionally stole three doses' worth of the Moderna vaccine, then forged the vaccine screening and consent forms.
Polk County Fire Rescue

Colon was charged following an investigation into his alleged Jan. 6 actions while administering vaccines to first responders at a fire station in Davenport.

Colon later admitted to falsifying paperwork during an interview with deputies Monday, saying he used the identities of two firefighters and a fictitious name on the screening and consent forms — which he signed, the affidavit shows.

Judd said Tuesday that Colon told investigators Damiano asked him to get vaccine doses for Damiano’s mother. Colon refused at first, but his supervisor threatened to tell department brass that he was selling doses while off-duty, an arrest affidavit shows.

Later that day, Damiano ordered Colon to take his lunch break and the paramedic noticed three missing vaccines when he returned, authorities said.

“Colon advised he did not question his supervisor in reference to the missing vaccines, however, he immediately became suspicious,” the affidavit continues. “Colon did not report this incident to anyone within Polk County Fire Rescue.”

Colon later admitted to forging three consent forms associated with the vaccines, using fake email addresses and a fictitious name in the process. He has been released from custody after posting bond, sheriff officials said.

Damiano, a 17-year department vet, will likely face theft and official misconduct charges when he returns to Florida, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Judd said Colon phoned Damiano from his attorney’s office as deputies monitored the call and the captain said the missing does were in a car parked outside a friend’s house in St. Cloud.

Two of the recovered doses are no longer usable, while the third wasn’t found, the newspaper reported.

“The bottom line is, Joshua tried to cover up for the captain,” Judd told reporters Tuesday. “Joshua set up the circumstance for the vaccines to have been stolen. Had Joshua simply gone to his boss right then, he’d have been the hero. Instead he started falsifying paperwork, making up people who didn’t exist to cover it up.”

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