Fake ID Ring Busted in Charlottesville
Federal investigators have closed the book on what could be the nation’s largest maker of fake identification – a Virginia company that made millions without advertising or even creating a website.
Three people plead guilty to supplying up to 25,000 high-quality drivers’ licenses to customers around the world who learned about their services by word of mouth.
Novel Designs never advertised, but word of the company’s high-quality work spread rapidly from one college campus to the next, and students under the age of 21 paid $75 to $125 apiece for a phony license that would get them into bars and clubs.
“These were drivers licenses that had holograms, security features , that had photographs cropped with the exact, precise color background -- really good product,” explained Timothy Heaphy, the U.S. attorney for Virginia’s Western District.
He says the recipients of the bogus IDs and their universities are being notified, and other federal agencies are checking to see if the fake cards were used to commit fraud.
“With a drivers license you can get government benefits, you can travel in and out of the country, you can get lines of credit, it could go anywhere and could be used for all kinds of nefarious purposes, and we’re trying hard to identify where all these documents went – what the customers did with them.”
The founder of the company, Alan Jones, his girlfriend Kelly McPhee and an associate named Mark Bernardo made over three million dollars since 2011. Now, Heaphy says the FBI, Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies hope to profit from their arrest and conviction.
“We’re trying hard to learn from this. Because we’ve seized the equipment used to make the IDS, seized a lot of the IDs themselves, that is an intelligence goldmine, and it’s allowing investigators to learn how to make better IDs so that they can’t be as easily replicated in the future.”
Jones, McPhee and Bernardo face up to seventeen years behind bars. They’ll be sentenced in December.