The fourth defendant has pleaded guilty in the fake ID ring that operated out of a house on Rugby Road. 19-year-old Michael A. DelRio of New Jersey has admitted to conspiring to commit identification document fraud. DelRio was also known as Copernicus Lionheart. Federal prosecutor Tim Heaphy says DelRio developed a web-based interface for potential customers that, if deployed, would have made the criminal enterprise even more lucrative than it was. Previously, in the case, Alan McNeil Jones, Kelly Erin McPhee and Mark G. Bernardo pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit identification fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft for their roles in the fake ID ring. The conspiracy, which began in 2010 under the name Novel Design, produced and sold more than 25,000 fake driver’s licenses that were sold mainly to college students throughout the nation.
“Mr. DelRio played a significant role in perpetuating a high-tech and sophisticated scheme to
produce and sell high-quality false identification documents all across the nation,” United States Attorney
Timothy J. Heaphy said today. “Because false
identification documents present very real threat to our security, we will continue to prioritize cases like
that against Mr. DelRio and his co-conspirators.”
“Counterfeit identity documents, like the ones produced by this ring, can be used by criminals,
enabling them to mask their identities and operate with ease in the United States,” said Scot Rittenberg,
acting special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations, Washington. “HSI is committed to
stopping this threat that undermines our nation’s security.”
Previously, Jones, McPhee and Bernardo admitted to conspiring to create high-quality, fraudulent
driver’s licenses out of the home they shared on Rugby Road in Charlottesville. The conspiracy, which
began in 2010 and operated under the name Novel Design, produced and sold more than 25,000 fraudulent
driver’s licenses, primarily to college students, throughout the nation.
As part of the scheme, Jones paid commissions to students at the University of Virginia, and
elsewhere, to refer his service to other students interested in obtaining fraudulent driver’s licenses. He also
outsourced some of the manufacturing work to companies in Bangladesh and China.
Jones and Bernardo recruited DelRio to streamline the website for their fraudulent identification
business. Jones paid DelRio $15,000 to build a website that would allow customers to input biographical
information directly onto the site, which would then be printed on the fraudulent identification document
each customer had ordered. Allowing customers to enter information via a secure, off-shore website would
have saved the conspirators the time it previously took to input that information by hand. Both Jones and
Bernardo indicated that DelRio had been informed of the nature and use of the program he was being asked
At sentencing, DelRio faces a maximum possible penalty of up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of
up to $250,000.
The investigation of the case was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE)
Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) Washington, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the
Virginia State Police and the Virginia Attorney General’s Computer Forensics Unit. United States Attorney
Timothy J. Heaphy, Assistant United States Attorney Ronald Huber and third-year University of Virginia
Law Student Maggie Sullivan prosecuted the case for the United States.