Fake IDs: How hard is it?

The recent bust of a fake ID ring where over $2 million was found in a house on Rugby Road brought attention to a lucrative criminal enterprise with high demand, particularly in a college town. So how hard is it to produce what law enforcement described as "high-quality false identification"?

Not very, apparently.

"What is problematic is the level of sophistication in some of the IDs we see," says David Huff, senior special agent with Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. "Before, even with minimal training, an officer could tell the fakes." Now, he says, they almost have to put them side by side to tell the difference.

Fake IDs, often called "novelty" items on the Internet, are incorporating images that only appear under ultraviolet light, says Huff. Sometimes the fakes will scan in bars that use scanners.

And if someone wants to produce an ID at home that will pass a cursory glance, all it takes is a printer and magnetically encoded card stock that many companies use for their own identification. "It's very easy to do, unfortunately," says Huff.

"True counterfeiting is difficult," says Robert Sherwood in Crozet, who's worked in holographic security and anti-counterfeiting for 25 years. "Simulation is about faking it for someone who doesn't care."

For example, putting rainbow holograms from China— or even mylar from Staples—on a fake ID is pretty easy, he says. "Everyone sees something rainbow and shiny, and they don't really look at it anymore."

It depends on who's looking at it and what you want to do with it, says Sherwood. "TSA agents are more educated than a bar bouncer." And although TSA people are looking for unique security features under ultraviolet light, "You can buy UV ink online," says Sherwood. "You can buy UV pens."

"Virginia has one of the most secure credentials in the country," says DMV spokesperson Pam Goheen. "I've yet to see a credible attempt at reproduction."

The license uses polycarbonate material, fine-line printing, and tactile features from raised lettering on the card. "The clear window is extremely difficult to reproduce," she says.

"We're seeing a lot of Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland and New York," says the ABC's Huff. "That's the current trend, not to say it won't change."

Another trend he's seeing as driver's licenses become harder to reproduce is alteration of an existing license or borrowing a license from someone older and similar looking. "It's one of the unintended consequences of how good our IDs are," says Huff.

Following the arrests of Alan McNeil Jones, Kelly McPhee, and Mark Bernardo, a search warrant inventory of the house at 920 Rugby Road listed driver's license card stock with state logo holograms.

"It's not without precedent for these items to be stolen from the DMV," says Huff.

They're also obtainable from China, and there are a lot of labs in the U.S. that can make holograms, says Sherwood.

Huff warns underage wannabe drinkers that if they're caught with a fake ID, it's better to 'fess up. Not owning up to a fake ID to a law enforcement officer is a Class 1 misdemeanor that's a "crime of fraud and crime of moral turpitude," Huff says. Confessing to a fake is still a Class 1 misdemeanor, but it's less likely to impede future background checks with a suggestion of willingness to lie or cheat.

Fake IDs might seem like a harmless youthful indiscretion, but in the post 9/11 world, says Huff, "You have to consider more nefarious things."

With all the effort put into keeping 19- and 20-year-olds from drinking and the cash incentives to market fake IDs to them, would the ABC's job be a lot easier if the drinking age were 18?

"That's a question for which intelligent people can have different opinions," says Huff. "My job is to enforce the law. I defer to the General Assembly."

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A law enforcement officer advising people to just "fess up" without an attorney present? Bad cop, no doughnut.

Remember your rights people!!!

Um, he is a cop. Not a judge. I am guessing he would prefer people to simply be honest...

How's it go? "Anything you say can and will be used AGAINST you in a court of law". Emphasis is mine.

Find me an attorney that would say it's ok to just "fess up" to law enforcement. Fess up = confession. I'm honest with the police, up until the point that they want me to waive my 5th amendment right.

Just as a refresher, the 5th amendment I'm talking about reads:

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Why do you need a fake ID? The "Underwear Bomber". the "Shoe Bomber" the 9/11 airplane hijackers, and the Boston Marathon bombers all had valid US State Department paperwork and assistance in entering the country. The father of one terrorist even warned the State Department about his son, and the Russian government warned the State Department about another terrorist. No fake IDs needed.

Now excuse us while we get into our GI Joe outfits and drive our armored tanks down Rugby Road while we totally embarass ourselves and endanger the public even more.

Altering Va drivers licenses was so easy back in the day. You just took the paper license out of the plastic sleeve, cut the numbers that you needed out of the organ donor info flap with an exacto knife, replaced them in the date of birth to make you the age you wanted. Put a little tape behind them to hold them there & voila ! You're ready to enter K.L. Christies.