‘Civil rights’ organization creating ‘mask exemption cards’ responds to accusations of fraud after 19 News investigation

Cleveland officials say organization is promoting a fake "mask exemption card."
Updated: Jul. 8, 2020 at 9:04 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - We now have a response from an organization accused of fraud by the Department of Justice.

19 Investigates warned you Monday about the “mask exemption card” being distributed across the country.

Lenka Koloma is the founder of the Freedom to Breathe Agency. It’s a business she says she created during the pandemic to advocate for people’s rights.

“One of them is breathing and our own personal health,” she said.

Earlier this week, we told you about the “face mask exempt” cards her business is generating.

They site ADA and threaten businesses with a fine if they make someone wear a mask.

“If people have medical condition, and they do not want to wear the mask, they need to be free to do so. We do have freedom to choose. We have medical freedom in United States,” she said.

Koloma goes a step further, saying she believes basically anyone could use her card to prove they do not need to wear a mask.

“Do you need oxygen to breathe and to live? Then you have a condition-- called breathing,” she said. “[The cards] are stating your personal rights and your civil rights.”

The CDC continues to recommend all people, including those with medical conditions, wear masks.

Many doctors say face coverings do not deprive you of enough oxygen to be harmful.

The Department of Justice put out a warning saying the cards are misleading. Some carry the DOJ emblem but the DOJ says they do not carry the force of law.

The DOJ says the ‘Freedom to Breathe Agency,’ or ‘FTBA,’ is not a government agency.

The Cleveland BBB says it doesn’t have any complaints about people trying to sell these or use them in local businesses. However, Sue McConnell re-iterated the warning message.

“Just know it is totally phony it has no backing from the government,” McConnell said.

To be clear, Koloma her business was never selling the cards.

She says instead that it was likely a third party who must have downloaded the cards for free from her website last week, laminated them and put them up online.

Koloma says the business never meant to imply the cards came from the DOJ.

“These cards were always issued by the FTBA,” she said.

Regardless, state and federal leaders maintain they mean nothing.

“It’s just a worthless card,” McConnell said.

You can make a report with our partners at the Scam Squad if you see one of the cards in attempted use or being sold. They will investigate further whether there is wrong-doing.

Representative Phil Robinson sent us a statement on the most recent mask mandate.

He supports the move, saying quote, “Wearing a mask is a sign of common courtesy and consideration of other’s health and safety during the pandemic.”

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