A group spread face mask exemption cards on Facebook. The DOJ says they are fraudulent

Credit @LanceBass via Twitter

The US Department of Justice is warning Americans about fraudulent cards distributed on Facebook by a group encouraging people to not wear masks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Posted: Jun 26, 2020 12:26 PM
Updated: Jun 26, 2020 12:27 PM

The US Department of Justice is warning Americans about fraudulent cards distributed on Facebook by a group encouraging people to not wear masks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The laminated cards feature an image of an eagle and say "Face Mask Exempt Card" in bold letters across the top.

They appear to be geared toward people trying to skirt state and business requirements to wear face masks in public, or to receive service.

The card also references the DOJ and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But Freedom to Breathe Agency, the group that posted them on its website and distributed the cards, isn't a federal or state agency. It's a Facebook group that says on its website it's trying to stop face mask orders "from spreading nationwide and globally."

Its founder, Lenka Koloma, told CNN it wasn't making any recommendations to anyone and the group's mission is "freedom and personal liberty." But she went on to say that people should only wear masks, "whenever they wish to be silenced and muzzled."

The DOJ's Civil Rights division and a US Attorney's office have now posted warnings about the cards, calling them fraudulent.

"Do not be fooled by the chicanery and misappropriation of the DOJ eagle," Matthew G.T. Martin, US attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, said in a news release. "These cards do not carry the force of law. The 'Freedom to Breathe Agency,' or 'FTBA,' is not a government agency."

The warning comes as the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise across the United States. Some 60% of states have seen increases in coronavirus cases in the last week.

Scientific research continues to show that mask wearing is saving lives by helping prevent the spread of Covid-19 by infected and asymptomatic people.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged people to wear them since early April.

Still, Koloma and her group are pushing falsehoods -- including that mask wearing dangerously limits oxygen. According to its Facebook page, the group had over 5,500 members.

It's unclear if the cards were presented anywhere by anyone.

There are multiple versions of the main card, including specific ones for Colorado and California.

"I am exempt from any ordinance requiring face mask usage in public," one of the cards says. "Wearing a face mask poses a mental and/or physical risk to me."

The cards also give the impression of being issued by an official government agency.

"Denying access to your business/organization will also be reported to FTBA for further actions," it reads, in all capital letters, at the bottom.

Some of the cards were even made to look more official, bearing the seal of the Department of Justice.

Koloma and Fred DiDomenico, who are listed as the co-administrators of the Facebook group, confirmed to CNN the group distributed the cards with the DOJ seal. Koloma and DiDomenico would not say why the cards had the DOJ seal on them or why they removed them.

The group disappeared from Facebook on Thursday afternoon. Koloma provided CNN with a screenshot with a notification saying Facebook removed the group for "fraud and deception."

Prior to its removal, CNN had reached out to Facebook for comment about the group. CNN has not received a response to the initial inquiry or to a follow-up inquiry about why the group's page was removed.

The group's website, created and hosted by Wix, also disappeared from the internet Wednesday morning. Koloma says they are unsure why it disappeared.

Wix has not responded to a request for comment.

Koloma says although the group was asking for donations on the site, it was not taking in any money. She has since created a new group page on Facebook and says it plans to distribute new cards.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 764448

Reported Deaths: 13965
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1049701803
Lake567981029
Allen42685698
St. Joseph37253568
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Elkhart29699470
Tippecanoe23347230
Vanderburgh23106404
Porter19538327
Johnson18755391
Hendricks18012321
Madison13463345
Clark13450198
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Delaware11100198
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Bartholomew8235157
Warrick8031157
Floyd7975181
Grant7337181
Wayne7222201
Boone7145105
Morgan6886142
Marshall6323116
Dubois6267118
Cass6083111
Dearborn598578
Noble595790
Henry5939111
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Lawrence4901127
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Harrison450576
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Steuben409560
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1122104

Reported Deaths: 20467
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1302141493
Cuyahoga1171052259
Hamilton823021259
Montgomery534221059
Summit488431014
Lucas43716832
Butler39925614
Stark33777937
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Licking16838227
Trumbull16770491
Fairfield16750207
Medina15818276
Greene15497254
Clark14336308
Portage13410218
Wood13332201
Allen12037245
Richland11722213
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Wayne9249227
Columbiana9195236
Muskingum9118137
Pickaway8735123
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Marion8697140
Erie8116166
Ashtabula7270179
Hancock7043134
Ross7011165
Geauga6946153
Scioto6665108
Belmont6207179
Lawrence5912104
Union590449
Jefferson5722162
Huron5624122
Sandusky5473130
Darke5436130
Seneca5376128
Washington5360111
Athens526360
Auglaize506987
Mercer490585
Shelby480997
Knox4609112
Madison447266
Ashland442698
Defiance438499
Fulton435675
Putnam4351104
Crawford4108111
Brown409462
Preble3944107
Logan391679
Clinton388666
Ottawa375381
Highland364968
Williams356178
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Guernsey329754
Jackson321154
Perry298350
Morrow294543
Fayette288150
Hardin279065
Henry276967
Coshocton272561
Holmes2725102
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Adams249158
Gallia248950
Pike244537
Wyandot235257
Hocking222263
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Paulding179342
Meigs151040
Noble137739
Monroe137445
Harrison115138
Morgan111624
Vinton87217
Unassigned03
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