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Publication Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Students face charges for making fake IDs _ on a shoestring budget Students face charges for making fake IDs _ on a shoestring budget (April 03, 2002)

**Police chief predicts light punishment.

By David Boyce

Almanac Staff Writer

The recent discovery by a San Mateo County Sheriff's Office task force of a fake ID production facility in the homes of two local students may be demonstrating just how easy it is to get such an operation up and running and slip around the government's efforts to prevent counterfeiting.

The Atherton Police Department reports that the two teenagers, a 15-year-old from Menlo Park and a 16-year-old from Atherton, used computers, printers, laminators, cameras, magnetic strips and other materials to create about 200 fraudulent, made-to-order California drivers licenses.

The teens, both students at Menlo School in Atherton, allegedly sold the cards for as much as $200 each to youths from ages 14 to 20 in cities from Redwood City to San Jose, Atherton Police Chief Bob Brennan said.

The county's Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team, which includes an officer from the Atherton Police Department, first became suspicious when a student arrested for shoplifting in Palo Alto was found to be carrying a false drivers license, Chief Brennan said.

Questioning of that student led officers to suspect the two Menlo School students. During a warranted search of their homes, police discovered equipment that could be used in the making of false IDs.

The names of the two suspects were not disclosed because they are juveniles. Police released the two into the custody of their parents. They face felony charges for the manufacture and sale of false government documents.

Chief Brennan said they are cooperating fully and have provided detailed records of their transactions, which are being used to track down the fake cards.

He said they could face some detention time, but that its unlikely given the shortage of space in juvenile facilities. He said his best guess is that they will be sentenced to probation and possibly some community service, such as working on a road crew on weekends.

However, he said that even a relatively light sentence would not soon wipe away the impression of six police officers standing in the living room and one's parents fuming in the corner. "The parents were very disappointed, like most parents would be," he said.

The youths who bought the cards will not be punished, the chief said, in the hope of recovering all the cards. He said the police will use the opportunity to talk with the kids about alcohol abuse, which he said is especially relevant with upcoming graduations and proms.

"Trying to punish 200 kids [would] be a big burden," he said, adding that he preferred to leave punishment to the parents, who, he said, would come up with suitable sanctions.
Over the Internet

Chief Brennan said the students got their start using ID-card-creation software bought over the Internet.

The Internet also provides copious amounts of advice. A quick search on the term "fake ID" yielded several Web sites that offer detailed instructions on how to create fraudulent IDs, including methods for creating holograms, the faint multi-colored background images designed specifically to make card counterfeiting more difficult.

These Web sites include links to other sites that sell related materials such as pre-perforated plastic card stock, images of state seals and police badge logos, and software that streamlines the whole process and allows the use of ordinary color printers.

There are even sites that advise the interested visitor on the relative trustworthiness of providers of fake-ID products.

Atherton Sergeant Brad Mills said the Web sites are legal provided the vendors do not represent themselves as government agents or demonstrate an intent to defraud.

Most such vendors "skirt the law," Sgt. Mills said, by portraying themselves as sellers of novelty items.

Chief Brennan said that what surprised DMV officials, who quickly recognized the cards as fakes, was the high quality of the work. That level of sophistication and quality is a big concern, he said, especially when the counterfeiting is being done at a local level.


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