May 8, 2013
The three suspects accused of running a fake ID ring made their first court appearance at Federal Court in Charlottesville Wednesday morning.
Alan McNeil Jones, Kelly Erin McPhee, and Mark Bernardo are accused of mailing more than 4,000 parcels containing high-quality phony driver's licenses to addresses at or near colleges since 2011.
In court on Wednesday, Jones confirmed under oath that he had gone by at least six aliases. Those names include JD Tucker, Joshua Tucker, John Williams, Charles Miller, Charles Brown and Thomas Taylor.
Jones faces three charges, including fraud involving identification documents, mail fraud and wire fraud. He faces up to 55 years in prison if convicted of all of those charges. U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy says more charges are expected.
Jones asked for more time to find a lawyer during Wednesday's hearing.
McPhee was the second suspect to get a hearing. She faces the same charges as Jones.
McPhee was the most emotional in court. As her hearing closed, she turned to her parents and mouthed the words, "I love you." Her parents also had tears in their eyes.
Bernardo got the final hearing. He initially requested a public defender, then asked the judge what it would entail if he defended himself. The judge strongly encouraged him not to do that, saying that "those who represent themselves have a fool for a client."
Bernardo decided to stick with his plan to request a public defender.
Bernardo a fraud charge involving identification documents, and a charge of money laundering. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of all charges. Heaphy says he expects to bring more charges against Bernardo as well.
Neighbors along Rugby Road say they are not surprised that something suspicious was happening at the home.
"We just didn't know the people," said one neighbor who did not want to be identified. "They hardly appeared."
This neighbor was surprised police were able to find the third suspect so quickly.
"We thought it would be a nationwide search," he said.
He is also glad that state troopers did not find something more dangerous.
"It wasn't like a drug gang or something like that," he said.
But Ronnie Roberts with Charlottesville Police says fake IDs could pose a long-term threat.
"If it's in the wrong hands of those individuals that are not from our country that may have intentions of causing harm to the American public," said Roberts.
He says some young people are choosing to use their intelligence for crime, because they anticipate a large payoff.
"You're seeing some of our young and our brightest that have been able to make comparable identifications that are pretty close to what the Commonwealth of Virginia is issuing," said Roberts.
All three suspects are due in court for a bail hearing on Thursday, May 16.