String of false IDs uncovered in Saratoga Springs: Recent local incidents tie into nation-wide investigations

Posted by Julia Leef

In a press conference at 1 p.m. on April 3 in the Saratoga Springs City Hall Council room, the Saratoga Springs Police department announced the arrest of 15 people in possession of false identifications, including a Skidmore College student, and is in the process of interviewing approximately 30 more high school students, according to Lt. John Catone, as part of a larger investigation undertaken by Homeland Security.

Of these individuals, 14 were charged with possession of a forged instrument, a class A misdemeanor, and had their New York State Driver's License suspended for 90 days.

One male, Stephen Smero, age 48, in addition to this charge, was prosecuted for unlawfully dealing with a child in a Class D Felony and also received a Class A Misdemeanor Conspiracy and a Class B Misdemeanor.

According to Catone, on March 9, 18 year-old Bradley Green entered a local wine and liquor store in Saratoga Springs to purchase alcoholic beverages for high school students at the Saratoga Springs High School Hockey Team's weekend playoff game in Utica.

Green identified himself with an out-of-state driver's license, which indicated to the store scanner that he was old enough for to purchase alcohol.

A female customer in the store identified Green as a high school student, and thus not of legal age to make the purchase. The store employees confronted Green and confiscated the liquor and the identification card.

Patrolman Dan Noeker wrote a report on the incident and secured Green's ID, in the process uncovering the possibility of the existence of more false IDs. Investigators Meghan Mullan and Jack Barney, who were assigned to the case, discovered that as many as 25 past and present Saratoga Springs High School students may have counterfeit IDs from as early as spring 2011.

The identification traced these IDs to a company based in China called ID Chief, which, according to Catone, is the focus of Homeland Security investigations in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

In early 2011, police seized 1,700 counterfeit driver's licenses in a shipment from China at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, according to an article in The Huffington Post.

District Attorney Jim Murphy III released a statement prior to the press conference stating that the IDs were ordered through a website based in Beijing, China, the monies were transmitted to Indonesia, and the actual IDs were forged in Eastern Europe.

According to Murphy, the IDs are crafted well-enough to possess many of the enhanced security features embedded in genuine licenses, and thus can pass security inspection when crossing into Canada or Mexico or when boarding an aircraft.

Subjects used these false IDs to purchase alcoholic beverages from more than six stores in the Saratoga Springs and Wilton area, to enter several Caroline Street bars, and to provide alcohol to students as young as the eighth grade. 

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