Authorities found weapons cache during fake ID raid - The Daily Progress: News

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Authorities found weapons cache during fake ID raid

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Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 11:32 pm | Updated: 1:04 pm, Thu May 16, 2013.

Investigators found a cache of 18 handguns, shotguns and assault rifles inside the Rugby Road home where three Charlottesville residents allegedly forged thousands of fake driver's licenses for college students across the country, according to federal court documents filed Wednesday.

Search warrants for the $1.3-million property, three vehicles and two bank accounts yielded about $53,000 in cash and $171,000 in deposits in addition to a half-dozen card printers that police say the trio used to create at least 4,000 IDs.

At least nine computers, a server and a large box containing bank account statements under various names also were among the four-page list of items seized from the home at 920 Rugby Road during a May 6 raid, according to an inventory compiled by a special agent with the U.S. Postal Service.

The records were made public the day before Kelly McPhee and Alan McNeil Jones, both 31, and 26-year-old Mark Bernardo were scheduled to appear in court for a bond hearing on charges that carry decades-long sentences.

Authorities arrested McPhee and Bernardo at the home after state police in tactical gear descended on the ritzy neighborhood in an armored vehicle around 9:30 p.m. May 6. Jones fled in a white 2008 Range Rover with Washington state license plates and was arrested the next day in Barracks Road Shopping Center after a brief foot chase.

Prosecutors charged Jones and McPhee with   mail fraud, wire fraud, and fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents.   Bernardo was charged with fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents and one count of money laundering. 

Investigators began a probe of the organization, operating under the name Novel Designs, in 2012 after police targeted a crop of College of Charleston students using fake IDs later traced to Charlottesville, according to court records.

The South Carolina students told officers they heard about the company through word of mouth, and would send cash to a box at the main post office on Seminole Trail in return for a high-quality fake driver's license, records state. U.S. Postal and Homeland Security investigators traced the activity to 2011 and tied the fraudulent company to more than 4,000 packages sent to college towns across the U.S., according to court records.

Court records lists dozens of out-of-state licenses and card stock with the state holograms used to complicate forgery. The IDs were found lying around loose in bags and organized in leather portfolios, according to records. Police also seized a Taser and a photo of McPhee firing a weapon, records state.

Searches of the trio's vehicles yielded cash and fake IDs in addition to personal items: Sun tan products in the red Jeep Wrangler; a Kenneth Cole bag in Bernardo's Cadillac SUV; Stacker 2 fat burning pills and three pocketknives in the Range Rover.

Bernardo's vehicle, allegedly paid for with $50,000in cash through a straw buyer, contained three fraudulent Penn State University ID cards with his picture, according to court records. Bernardo requested a court-appointed public defender last week. He faces up to 35 years in prison and a $750,000 fine if convicted. 

Charlottesville-based attorney K. Andrew Sneathern filed court paperwork Wednesday saying he plans to represent McPhee. Jones and McPhee each face maximum sentences of up to 55 years in prison and a $750,000 fine. All three are being held in Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.

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