Amid Bust, Law Enforcement Finds Ways to Spot Fake IDs

By: Chris Stover Email
By: Chris Stover Email

December 17, 2013

As three people prepare to head to federal prison for running a fake ID ring out of a Charlottesville home, authorities are looking for ways to prevent something like this from happening again.

However, they're finding that's easier said than done.

Alan McNeil Jones, Kelly Erin McPhee and Mark Bernardo were sentenced in federal court on Monday in connection to running a multi-million-dollar fake ID ring out of a Rugby Road home.

"The quality of the equipment that they had to be able to print on cardstock, really high-quality, high-resolution images from photographs and the typeface was remarkable," U.S. attorney Tim Heaphy said in a press conference Monday.

The trio sent out some 25,000 fake IDs from coast to coast, and it began on the Corner at the University of Virginia.

"The very first ID Mr. Jones made was for a person he met in line at Coupe DeVille's on the corner," Heaphy said.

And from there, the operation grew in impressive numbers.

Emails obtained by the Newsplex show the process the trio's company, known as Novel Designs, used to have people purchase and receive fake IDs.

"Some of those identifications have been very well produced and it is in some cases very difficult to detect," Charlottesville Police Lt. Ronnie Roberts said.

Colleges and universities, including UVa, will soon receive notifications telling administrators what students bought IDs from the ring.

"They're not targets of our federal investigation," Heaphy said. "We made a decision that we really were not going to charge college students with a fake ID as a federal crime."

The customers could be the target of university discipline. At UVa, for example, the Honor Committee or University Judiciary Committee could consider taking action. But a UVa spokesman says the university hasn't received any information from federal prosecutors yet.

At the very least, this massive fake ID ring has shown law enforcement the technology that exists in this trade.

"We'll have to continue that change progressively as we move forward and as the technology advances move forward, too," Roberts said. "We have to stay ahead of the curve there."

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