Fake ID ring suspects plead guilty

Alan Jones, Mark Bernardo, and Kelly McPhee appeared in court and pled guilty to manufacturing fake IDs. Contributed photos. Alan Jones, Mark Bernardo, and Kelly McPhee appeared in court and pled guilty to manufacturing fake IDs. Contributed photos.

The three suspects arrested in May for manufacturing at least 20,000 fake IDs in a Rugby Road mansion pleaded guilty on Wednesday to two counts: conspiracy to commit identification document fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The combined charges hold a maximum of 17 years in prison, according to U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon.

Alan McNeil Jones, Kelly Erin McPHee, and Mark Gil Bernardo, each represented by separate defense attorneys, waived their right to be charged by indictment, which, according to Moon, means the court has enough evidence to sentence the three based on their guilty pleas.

It’s been four months since the massive raid of a house on Rugby Road, when federal agents arrested McPhee, 31, and Bernardo, 26 for manufacturing fake IDs and shipping them to college students across the country under the company name “Novel Designs.” Jones, 31, was arrested the day after the May 6 raid. The three suspects have been in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail since then.

As a result of the high-profile raid on May 6 of the Rugby Road house and the ongoing investigation, law enforcement officials have seized roughly $2 million, computer equipment used to manufacture the fake IDs, cell phones, tasers, a Jeep Wrangler, a Land Rover, and assault rifles.

According to U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy, a United States attorney for the Western district of Virginia, the investigation into the elaborate scheme to sell fake IDs to minors began about a year ago. It all started with what officials described as a “lucky tip” from a student at the College of Charleston, who dropped five fake Ohio driver’s licenses from her pocket outside a post office box at school in April 2012. The fake IDs were turned in to the police, who questioned the student and then learned about Novel Designs and the Charlottesville post office box through which the business was run. After months of quietly observing the post office box that Jones and McPhee frequented, federal investigators posed as underaged students and purchased fake IDs through the company, which granted enough evidence for the search warrant, which was carried out on May 6.

Heaphy said the investigation was notable in the fact that it stretched across multiple jurisdictions, including local law enforcement personnel, the Virginia State Police, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.

Jones, McPhee, and Bernardo will appear in court on Monday, December 16 for sentencing.