Probe finds muzzle sent as “threat” to vaccine official was bought with her credit card


Hayley Fowler

The Charlotte Observer

A top official in Tennessee’s Department of Health overseeing the state’s vaccination program received a dog muzzle in the mail days before she was fired.

Now investigators say it was bought with her credit card.

An American Express card in the name of Dr. Michelle Fiscus was used to purchase a silicon dog muzzle from Amazon, according to a memorandum detailing the results of an investigation by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Fiscus is the former medical director at the Tennessee Department of Health. She was fired in July after Republican lawmakers complained about her approach to vaccinating teenagers against COVID-19, the Associated Press reported.

She has denied sending the muzzle to herself.

In a tweet Monday after Axios first broke the story, Fiscus said she asked Homeland Security to investigate who sent the dog muzzle and that a second Amazon account appeared to have been made in her name.

“No, I didn’t send it to myself,” she said.

Fiscus also said her credit card was charged for the muzzle using an incorrect billing address from an account in Washington — a state where Fiscus said she has never been. The account was also accessed “by a cell phone using a carrier I have never used,” she said.

What the memo found

According to Homeland Security’s investigation, Fiscus told special agents she received the package on July 2 and opened it July 6.

She initially thought it was a joke from a colleague — until that person denied sending it.

“Dr. Fiscus stated that she then suspected that the muzzle was possibly meant as a veiled threat based on her job and the COVID-19 vaccination program she oversees,” investigators wrote in the memo.

Special agents then reached out to Amazon Loss Prevention, where an employee reportedly told them he could only do a “cursory bar code search” on the package without a subpoena.

“After his search (the employee) stated that it appeared that the receiver [ Dr. Fiscus] was also the sender, but he could not be certain,” the memo states.

Investigators went back to Fiscus, who reportedly showed them an Amazon account in her name and all of her recent purchases. She also called her husband and daughter while investigators were present and asked them if they sent the muzzle, which they denied.

“Dr. Fiscus told us that she had no knowledge of who sent the muzzle or why Amazon had indicated that the muzzle had been sent by her,” investigators said.

Homeland Security conducted interviews with people who sent Fiscus emails criticizing her work and staff members at the state health department. They also submitted a subpoena to Amazon for information associated with the account that bought the muzzle as well as all Amazon accounts in Fiscus’ name.

According to the memo, the results showed two different accounts in her name — one Fiscus had previously shown investigators and a second created in March 2021 that was used to buy the muzzle.

Both accounts listed the same Amex credit card.

Investigators subsequently concluded there was “no evidence to indicate that the dog muzzle was intended to threaten Dr. Fiscus” and closed the case.

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