The two men and one woman who ran a multi-million-dollar fake ID scheme out of a luxury rental house in Charlottesville could have spent the next 17 years in a federal prison. Monday, they found out that they'll serve only a fraction of that time.
Alan Jones, Mark Bernardo, and Kelly McPhee were arrested in May after federal investigators raided a home on Rugby Road suspected to be the headquarters of a fake ID ring. The May raid is now sending three members of the fake ID ring to a home behind bars.
“They had, in this house on Rugby Road, an assembly line that absolutely was state-of-the-art,” said Tim Heaphy, U.S. attorney.
The mastermind of the operation, 32-year-old Jones, will spend the most time in prison. A federal judge sentenced him to five years.
“Mr. Jones really believed very strongly in privacy, in keeping things from the government,” said Heaphy.
The judge sentenced 27-year-old Bernardo to three years and four months. Bernardo was the last to get involved in the ring and helped design a website for the business.
“We're hopeful the intelligence gathered from him will help make identifications more secure,” said Heaphy.
Jones' girlfriend, 31-year-old McPhee, will go to prison the shortest time of the three, with a sentence of two years and one month.
“She gave us an insider’s view of how this business unfolded over time,” said Heaphy.
McPhee wiped away tears in court, apologizing for her "complete lack of judgment."
“Unlike some people who are just sorry they got caught, Kelly is remorseful for the intangible things out there. The effect this had on her family, anyone out there who may have been victimized or hurt by this,” said Dean Lhospital, McPhee’s attorney.
Federal investigators are currently tracking down the estimated 25,000 college students who bought fake IDs from the Charlottesville operation. The fake ID sales grossed more than $3 million. The universities the student-customers attend will get a letter naming each student and urging them to take action.
“That's part of our desire to the extent possible compartmentalize the potential damage posed by these fake identification documents,” said Heaphy.
Heaphy says these IDs went out to students at hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide. It will be up to those schools and local law enforcement how to respond.
The cooperation in this case led federal investigators to a fourth conspirator who is scheduled for a trial in March.
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