A Canadian casino mogul and his actress wife were accused of posing as motel workers in order to receive COVID-19 vaccines meant for Indigenous residents of a remote Yukon community.
Rodney Baker, 55, and his 32-year-old wife Ekaterina Baker, allegedly chartered a private plane to Beaver Creek on Jan. 21 to get doses of the Moderna shot, the CBC reported.
“Effectively what they did was they put our community and our isolation team at risk,” Yukon Community Services Minister John Streicker told the outlet on Monday.
“I’m pretty angry at the whole thing.”
Staff at a mobile clinic had been administering the vaccine to the about 100 residents of Beaver Creek, most of whom are members of the White River First Nation.
The wealthy couple allegedly lied to workers at the clinic about where they lived and worked, according to the Yukon News.
But the pair raised suspicions when they asked for a ride to the airport after receiving their shots, Streicker said.
Clinic staff alerted the authorities after the motel confirmed that the Bakers weren’t actually new employees.
Officers first looked for the couple at a location in nearby Whitehorse where they were supposed to quarantine — and eventually found them at the airport, preparing to fly back to Vancouver, the reports said.
“We just didn’t anticipate that anyone would go to this length to effectively deceive the team to get vaccinated, and I think we all felt pretty offended at the whole thing,” Streicker told the CBC.
The Bakers were hit with two charges each under Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act, one for failing to self-isolate and the other for failing to follow a travel declaration.
The maximum penalty they each face is a fine of up to $1,150 and/or up to six months in jail.
Rodney Baker, who reportedly made $10.6 million in 2019 as CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, resigned on Sunday.
The company, which owns several casinos across Canada, has been embroiled in a probe looking into allegations of corruption and money-laundering since last year.
The mogul married Ekaterina, a Russian-born actress, in 2017, according to the reports.
The White River First Nation condemned the couple’s actions in a statement on Saturday and called for the pair to face harsher penalties.
“We are deeply concerned by the actions of individuals who put our elders and vulnerable people at risk to jump the line for selfish purposes,” Chief Angela Demit said in a statement.
The community, she said, was selected to receive the vaccines “given our remoteness, elderly and high-risk population, as well as limited access to health care.”
“While we understand many want to have a vaccination immediately, it is not appropriate to skirt the rules put in place and approach our community in this way.”