Fake ID trio remanded; feds say Rugby house held $1.3 million in cash

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.

All three Charlottesville residents arrested last week for allegedly manufacturing thousands of fake IDs will remain in jail for the foreseeable future after each waived the right to a bail hearing in federal court Thursday afternoon. Meanwhile, details continue to emerge about the raid on a Rugby Road house that led to their arrests, including news of $1.3 million in cash taken from a safe and an inventory of 18 handguns, shotguns, semi-automatic assault rifles, and other weapons seized by feds.

Alan Jones, Mark Bernardo, and Kelly McPhee went before U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Waugh Crigler in back-to-back proceedings—the trio’s second court appearance since their arrests. They are all accused of multiple fraud counts, and face between 35 and 55 years in jail and fines of up to $750,000. While no future court dates have been set, U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said his office is still gathering evidence, and expects to announce whether there will be trials or plea deals in the case within 30 days.

Jones has hired David Heilberg of Charlottesville defense firm Dygert, Wright, Hobbs & Heilberg, and McPhee has retained Andrew Sneathern of Sneathern & L’Hospital. Bernardo, who admitted to recently purchasing a Cadillac with $50,000 cash through a straw buyer, claimed indigency and is being represented by Frederick T. Heblich, assistant federal public defender in charge of the Charlottesville and Harrisonburg Division.

A number of McPhee’s friends and family were again looking on in the courtroom. Across the aisle from them sat Bernardo’s mother and two sisters, well-dressed New Yorkers whom Heblich said had traveled to Charlottesville in a show of support for his client. Bernardo’s mother wept silently into a tissue when her son was led out of court.

If Jones had family watching, they weren’t identified. He may end up relying on some outside support, however. Heaphy raised doubts about the 31-year-old University of Alabama graduate’s ability to afford his high-priced lawyer.

“I understand Mr. Heilberg is very expensive,” Heaphy said in his address to the judge, and investigators may question Jones’ sources of income, having already seized four bank accounts under various aliases believed to contain profits from a massive illegal ID manufacturing business.

“I’m uncertain of a legitimate source of income for Mr. Jones for a very long time,” Heaphy said.

For now, though, Heilberg remains Jones’ attorney of record. And more information about just how profitable the fake ID factory was are coming to light.

After leaving the courtroom, Heaphy said the amount of money seized in the wake of the raid is now up to $2 million, including $1.3 million in cash found in a safe in the Rugby Road house.

An inventory of other items taken from house released earlier this week along with the warrant issued ahead of the bust reveals feds found 18 firearms there, including handguns, a shotgun, and at least two semiautomatic assault rifles.

Also seized, according to the inventory, were a taser, numerous computers, cell phones, bags and binders of fake drivers licenses from all over the country, sheets of holograms used to manufacture the IDs, a bag of “green leafy plant like material,” a fake Connecticut license with McPhee’s picture, and photographs of McPhee firing a gun.

Heaphy wouldn’t comment on what agents have learned about the origin of the weapons cache, or whether the defendants are suspected of selling guns. And while he said he expects to file more charges, he wouldn’t say whether any other individuals are believed to have been involved in the fake ID ring.

And while he wouldn’t say whether more people are believed to have been involved, Heaphy said investigators are still tracking down leads.

“There’s a lot more to come in this case,” he said.