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Published: 8/8/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Ohio on alert to high-quality fake driver's licenses

BY DAVID EGGERT
COLUMBUS DISPATCH

COLUMBUS -- Authorities are coping with a counterfeit version of the Ohio driver's license of remarkably high quality.

"It is a considerable problem that we're dealing with," said Robert Booker, Jr., executive director of the Ohio Investigative Unit, an agency within the Department of Public Safety that enforces liquor laws.

Fake IDs are nothing new, and Ohio has its share of minors making them in dorm rooms or buying them elsewhere, including on the Internet.

But the IDs originating from one Chinese company are nearly flawless to the untrained eye, officials said.

They copy more of the security features that appear on the real thing -- holograms, bar codes, magnetic strips that can be scanned, and ultraviolet images.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Chicago this year have seized more than 1,700 Chinese-produced phony driver's licenses for the states of Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, and South Dakota.

A majority were addressed to college students throughout the country -- some in envelopes, others hidden inside boxes of jewelry, toys, and electronic devices.

In March, seven Ohio University students were sentenced to suspended jail time after Cincinnati customs officials in January intercepted a package containing 20 high-quality fake driver's licenses from Hong Kong.

According to a search-warrant affidavit, the fakes were professional quality and excellent, with holographic printing and working magnetic strips.

Mike Rankin, Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles registrar, is worried enough about the problem that he asked for it to be discussed when motor-vehicle administrators from across the United States meet this month.

Fake IDs not only enable underage drinking but are key to illegal immigration, identity theft, credit-card fraud, and other financial crimes.

"This is a national and international problem, not just an Ohio problem," Mr. Rankin said.



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