Volunteer accused of stealing vaccines from Pipkin site identified as Memphis doctor

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The volunteer accused of stealing COVID-19 vaccines from the Pipkin vaccination site and giving them to friends and family has been identified as a Memphis doctor.

PREVIOUS: VACCINES STOLEN: Volunteer accused of stealing COVID-19 vaccines from Memphis site, state health department says

The theft reportedly occurred back in February but was not reported to the state or federal authorities, according to TDH.

According to documents from the Tennessee State Department of Health, Claude Varner Jr. volunteered to administer vaccines at the Pipkin Building in Memphis between Jan. 16 and Feb. 10, 2021.

He was accused of stealing five doses of the vaccine, giving two to his wife, two to a friend, and one to his daughter-in-law, who was not eligible for the vaccine at the time.

Varner’s medical license was reprimanded, and he was required to complete a course entitled “Medical Ethics, Boundaries and Professionalism.” He was also fined $100 for each dose taken for a total of $500 and the cost of prosecuting the case, which shall not exceed $1000.

University of Memphis law professor Steve Mulroy said it’s possible Varner could still face criminal charges.

“Any kind of theft is a criminal offense,” Mulroy said. “In this particular case, because of the value of the vaccines, I would imagine it would just be a misdemeanor.”

Mulroy said Varner could serve time in jail, with the maximum sentence for a Class A misdemeanor being 11 months and 29 days in jail.

He said he could also be placed on probation, as there’s a wide range of discretion with misdemeanors.

“It is a case-by-case decision and committed entirely to the sound discretion of the prosecutor,” he said.

Mulroy said precedent in the state of Tennessee would also play a role in this case.

He said based on the penalties Varner has received, he doubts criminal charges enter the picture.

“Seems to me as much as he’s gone through right now, I’d be surprised if they decided to bring criminal charges as well,” he said. “Even though they’re theoretically possible.”

FOX13 reached out to Varner’s attorney for comment. We will update this story when we hear back.

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