A 19-year-old New Jersey man is the latest person charged in connection with a fraud ring whose fake ID manufacturing operation led to a high-profile May raid of a Rugby Road mansion, the seizure of $3 million, and the arrest and subsequent guilty pleas of three young city residents.
Michael A. Delrio of Edison, New Jersey, who used the alias “Copernicus Leonhart,” appeared in federal court in Charlottesville Wednesday, where he pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit document fraud, according to court records.
On September 4, Alan McNeil Jones, Kelly Erin McPhee, and Mark Gil Bernardo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit identification document fraud and aggravated identity theft in the same court. The pleas came four months after federal agents swarmed the house where Jones and McPhee had been living and arrested the trio for manufacturing fake IDs and shipping them to college students across the country under the company name “Novel Designs.” Besides what added up to millions in cash, investigators seized cars, fake documents, cell phones, tasers, and multiple weapons, including assault rifles, from the rented home.
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said Delrio’s was allegedly hired to work with Bernardo to create a website to assist the conspiracy. Court documents show prosecutors have demanded he forfeit $60,000 he was allegedly paid for his work.
Delrio, represented by his court-appointed attorney J. Lloyd Snook was released on $50,000 bond to his family.