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Bars on the lookout for fake IDs

...and there are plenty of 'em



New York ID at Local 506 in Chapel Hill is a pretty rare occurrence, says Glenn Booth, the club's owner. So when not just one patron, but two, produced a New York ID, Booth got a little suspicious. "You don't see those very often," he says.

Local 506 is a membership club, and in order to obtain a membership one must fill out a form and produce an over-18 driver's license. The first New York patron obtained a membership with his driver's license and then had his hand stamped so that he could go in and out of the club that night. Booth, who rarely works the door, got suspicious when another person later that night came to the club with a New York ID and wanted to get a membership card. Booth quickly recognized that the man was trying to use the same New York ID as the man who'd joined earlier, so he confiscated the ID. The first New York patron, to whom the ID actually belonged, came up to Booth and started getting in his face. "He and I were basically going back and forth," Booth says.

That continued until Booth was trying to close the club after the show was over. The patron got so pugnacious that "he actually came around the bar and punched me in the face," says Booth, who ended up knocked out and in the hospital.

In colleges town like Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham, fake IDs (or ID fraud, as the charge is known) are commonplace in the bar and club scene. Because of the persistence of under-age patrons seeking alcohol, local bar managers try to stay one step ahead in order to spot fraudulent IDs.

"There [are] little tricks that we teach our door guys," says Christina Hoppe, bar manager at East Village in Raleigh. Most bars either train their staff to recognize fake IDs or have a book explaining the characteristics of a fraudulent ID.

Booth said that while he doesn't get a lot of fake IDs at Local 506, the most common ones he sees have smudged-out faces or are real IDs being used by other people who share a resemblance.

East Village has special lights at the door to detect the different plastic used on fake IDs, Hoppe explained. Another common characteristic that can give fake IDs away is an expiration date that does not match other dates on the ID. When bars do encounter a fake ID, they are required by law to take it.

Under North Carolina law, it's a criminal offense to try to enter a place that sells alcohol or to try to obtain alcohol using a fake ID. In fact, it's a criminal offense just to possess a fake ID. If convicted, the offender's driver's license can be revoked for one year or until the offender's 18th birthday, whichever is longer.

Making fake IDs is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and 100 hours of community service, plus court costs.

Where do all these fake IDs come from? Some are homemade efforts, while others are obtained from friends in the business of cranking out fraudulent ID cards. Occasionally, as was the case last spring at Duke, a counterfeit ID business is exposed.

Duke student Michael Aaron Ruth was arrested and indicted in federal court for possessing equipment used to make fake IDs and for having fake IDs after police found incriminating software at his old apartment along with laminating materials and paper cutters, according to news reports. Ruth pleaded guilty and said he made over $10,000 producing fake IDs for customers willing to pay $80 to $120 per card.

Fake IDs also exist on the high school scene. One high school senior, who asked not to be identified, said he uses his fake ID to go out with friends and buy beer for parties.

He said he got his ID while out with a couple of friends one night when somebody mentioned that he could get one. Through this friend, he hooked up with someone who made it for $20.

The counterfeiter used a scanner and a real ID for someone who was over 21 to create the correctly colored background for the fake card. The whole thing took about 30 minutes.

With more complex computer programs, fake IDs are becoming easier to make, making it tougher on bars and restaurants trying to follow the law.

Fake ID production is an age-old art, and Booth of Local 506 was able to reminisce back to his days as teenager.

"Honestly," he laughed, "I had a fake ID when I was younger."

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