CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Three Charlottesville residents accused of producing tens of thousands of fake driver's licenses and shipping them across the country pleaded guilty Wednesday morning following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Virginia State Police.
Alan McNeil Jones, 31, Kelly Erin McPhee, 31 and Mark Guerin Bernardo, 34, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit identification document fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
"Individuals who provide phony documents are putting the security of our communities and even our country at risk," said HSI Washington Acting Special Agent in Charge Scot R. Rittenberg. "Documents like these could be exploited by dangerous criminals and even potential terrorists to obscure their identities and cover their tracks."
"These three defendants developed a sophisticated scheme to produce and sell high-quality false identification documents throughout the nation," U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said. "Their criminal enterprise was tremendously lucrative, generating profits of more than $3 million over several years. By producing and distributing these fraudulent identification documents, Mr. Jones and his co-conspirators endangered national security. Law enforcement personnel involved in this case will take every available step to recover these counterfeit driver's licenses and ensure that they cannot be used to facilitate additional criminal activity."
The three defendants admitted to conspiring to create high-quality false identification documents out of the home they shared in Charlottesville. The conspiracy, which began in 2010 and operated under the name Novel Designs, produced and sold more than 25,000 false identification documents, primarily to college students, throughout the nation.
As part of the scheme, Jones paid commissions to students at the University of Virginia, and elsewhere, to refer his service to other students interested in obtaining fake IDs. He also outsourced some of the manufacturing work to companies in Bangladesh and China.
While Novel Designs was in operation, Jones, McPhee and Bernardo produced approximately 25,000 false driver's licenses charging anywhere from $75 to $125 per license. The three earned more than $3 million from customers. To date, more than $2 million has been seized by law enforcement.
At the height of the conspiracy, Jones, McPhee and Bernardo, were able to create identification documents for the states of Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
At sentencing, each defendant faces a maximum possible penalty of up to 15 years in federal prison on the conspiracy charge and a mandatory additional two-year sentence on the aggravated identify theft charge.