The fourth member of a fake ID ring in Charlottesville, Virginia has pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit identification document fraud.
Michael DelRio, 19, is the supposed the tech expert behind the fake ID scheme that was responsible for producing high-quality false identification documents across the country.
DelRio, who also operated under the alias “Copernicus Lionheart” follows his fellow accomplices Alan McNeil Jones, Kelly Erin McPhee and Mark Gil Bernardo who also pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit identification fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft for their roles in the scheme.
“He worked to develop a web-based interface for potential customers that, if deployed, would have made the criminal enterprise even more lucrative than it was,” says United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy. “Because false identification documents present very real threat to our security, we will continue to prioritize cases like that against Mr. DelRio and his co-conspirators.”
Counterfeit identity documents, like the ones produced by this ring, could have been be used by criminals for fraudulent purposes. This isn’t a first time offense either, as three of the conspirators, Jones, McPhee and Bernardo admitted to collaborating to create high-quality, fraudulent driver’s licenses out of the home they shared in Charlottesville.
The conspiracy, which began in 2010 and operated under the name Novel Design, and according to local NBC affiliate WVIR, produced and sold more than 25,000 fraudulent driver’s licenses nationwide, primarily to college students.
As part of the scheme, Jones paid commissions to students at the University of Virginia, and elsewhere, using word of mouth to refer his service to other students interested in obtaining fake driver’s licenses. According to reports, the operation also outsourced some of the ID manufacturing to companies in Bangladesh and China.
Jones and Bernardo recruited tech expert DelRio to develop the website for their fraudulent identification business. Jones reportedly paid DelRio $15,000 to build a website that would allow customers to input biographical information directly onto the site, which would then be printed on the fraudulent IDs that the customer had ordered.
By enabling customers to enter personal information via a secure, offshore website saved the conspirators the time it previously took to input that information by hand. Both Jones and Bernardo indicated that DelRio had been informed of the nature and use of the program he was being asked to produce.
DelRio faces a maximum possible penalty of up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.