ATHENS, Ga. — A Clarke County grand jury this week indicted 20 students in connection with a sophisticated counterfeiting ring that spread hundreds of fake IDs throughout the University of Georgia and other college campuses.
The ring was headed by two roommates, who authorities said provided a door-to-door service, using couriers to take photos of customers in their own dorm rooms and collect personal information for the fake IDs, then delivered the finished product at prices that ranged from $50 to $100.
The indictments, filed Tuesday in Clarke County Superior Court, came after an exhaustive investigation by UGA police and the Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s office that began in August 2011.
UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson said the probe took investigators to several college campuses in different states.
“This was a multi-state, multi-institution investigation,” he said. “It took us to colleges in Michigan, Alabama, Florida and several in Georgia.”
The alleged ringleaders were William Finley Trosclair, 22, a UGA recreational sports student assistant, and Tyler Andrew Ruby, 23, who attended Gainesville State College when the investigation began three years ago.
The other 18 people who were indicted sold and distributed fake driver’s licenses that authorities said were manufactured at the home Trosclair and Ruby shared at the Summit of Athens, a gated student community off Barnett Shoals Road.
During the investigation, authorities collected more than 400 fake driver’s licenses, but the actual number of IDs distributed by the ring might possibly reach more than 2,000, according to Williamson.
Trosclair was charged in the indictment with eight counts each of manufacturing and distribution of false identification documents and manufacturing and distribution of false identification documents containing unauthorized government seals.
Ruby was charged with nine counts of both crimes, according to the indictment.
The 18 other codefendants were charged with various counts of distributing the fraudulent documents. The offenses charged by the grand jury are felonies.
All but four of the people who were indicted attended UGA.
Williamson pointed out that each count involves multiple offenses, but prosecutors streamlined the case for presentation to the grand jury.
“This case was overwhelming,” the police chief said. “It was simplified for the court system to get things moving.”
In Trosclair’s case, for example, the student is accused in the indictment of making and selling 198 fake Georgia and Florida driver’s licenses. Ruby was similarly indicted for dozens of offenses.
At least 20 search warrants were executed during the investigation as authorities seized computers, laminating devices, email account records, bank safe deposit box contents and more.
The warrants, reviewed by the Athens Banner-Herald, revealed the following:
The counterfeit ring came to light Aug. 15, 2011, when a troubled student approached a resident assistant about a “conflict” between her and her roommate.
She explained the tension arose from her roommate’s involvement with the fake ID ring in which the roommate acted as a “middle person” between the manufacturers and buyers.
The resident assistant notified police the next day and an officer took the student’s written statement. The student also showed the officer where her roommate picked up the fake IDs — the home of Trosclair and Ruby.
The student gave police the names of students who had bought fake IDs from her roommate and they, in turn, confirmed the illegal transactions.
The buyers told police how a student came to their dorm rooms at Creswell Hall, used a cell phone to take their photos, then sent the pictures and text with personal information to be placed on the fake IDs to the manufacturer. The woman later delivered the fraudulent driver’s licenses to the students and took $75 as payment for each fake ID.
In September 2011, police searched the home at The Summit and seized computers, a printer, computer and camera memory storage devices, 200 blank ID cards, sheets of license hologram laminate for Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and New Jersey driver’s licenses in addition to other evidence.
Williamson said the availability of bootleg IDs strongly suggests that most bars and clubs frequented by students follow the law by requiring proof of age before selling alcohol.
“When you look at underage drinking issues, the mind-set often is it’s the business owners’ fault,” the police chief said. “This case shows that businesses are operating properly and in compliance with their liquor licenses because if they weren’t, we wouldn’t have this type of criminal enterprise going on.”