Fake IDs gateway to a criminal world
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -
From cops to casino hosts to convenience store clerks, Las Vegas employs a lot of people trained to sniff out fake IDs.
Kids trying to score alcohol or get into clubs might be the first things you think about when it comes to fake IDs, but it goes beyond that. Despite what some think, it's not a victimless crime, and you could end up footing the bill.
In fact, the fake ID business is connected to the sex trade and illegal immigration as well as underage drinking.
Updated: May 17, 2012 10:32 PM PDT
Posted By Craig Huber, Web Managing Editor
Submitted By John Huck, Anchor
FOX 5 Vegas
"They are able to duplicate our IDs across the board," said a representative from Homeland Security who didn't wish to be identified.
The "they" our Homeland Security representative was talking about are mostly Chinese companies, willing to break the law to give people a shot at creating a new persona.
Jonathan Cooper, 21, is an intern with FOX5's parent company, Meredith Corporation. Cooper entered his real name, birthday, height and weight into a website called "idchief." He also provided a signature and his picture.
A few days later, Cooper was instructed via email to wire $200 to Beijing, China. After a few weeks, Cooper had a fake driver's license. It arrived taped to the bottom of a small, red box.
"It was probably packaged so it could pass through customs," said Las Vegas private investigator David Howard. "As far as any law enforcement or anybody who has to look at it, it's real."
"It's made by the same equipment that we actually make our licenses from," Howard continued.
How is that possible? It's because the DMV buys its equipment from Chinese businesses. The same machines used to produce legitimate licenses are later sold to counterfeiters for as little as $2,700 apiece.
"It appears legit. It has a hologram in it, the pictures coincide with each other, all the text appears legit," said John Tonry with the North Las Vegas Police Department.
Tonry runs across fake IDs all the time while on patrol. Police are trained to spot fakes, but the one we showed him was convincing.
Cooper got mixed results when he attempted to buy alcohol with the fake ID. A purchase was quickly made at the first liquor store he tried, but the clerk at the second store thought there was something wrong with the picture on the ID.
It used to be that fake IDs - with shoddy lamination and bad photos - were easy to spot. The new, sophisticated IDs are a gateway to all sorts of criminal activity.
"A lot of felons - when they want to start over again - find IDs and they start over from scratch with people not knowing who they are or what they're about," said Howard. "They're using a fake ID card, fake driver's license that allows them to access a completely different world."
It's a world that Howard said includes the sex trade, human trafficking, illegal immigration and scams.
Nick Teta is familiar with the Chinese counterfeit industry. The security consultant divides his time between Las Vegas and Afghanistan, where a lot of counterfeit Chinese items are readily available.
Teta said fake IDs can be used by terrorists or anyone else who wants to skirt the No Fly List.
"The bad guys have to travel and it's getting harder and harder to travel," Teta said. "They create an online identity that gets them through to travel without being on the No Fly List. It gets them U.S. citizenship."
The fact is the TSA's system doesn't check driver's licenses against a centralized database.
What can be done to shut bogus document mills down? Both Teta and Howard said it would take a national coordinated effort. However, the cost may be too high - both in financial terms and in regards to our liberties.
Our Homeland Security representative confirmed the problem of Chinese-produced fake IDs and acknowledged that it is a concern and top priority for the department.