Fraudulent driver’s licenses were made in a UGA dorm room then sold to underage students so they could use the IDs to buy alcohol, UGA police said.
Investigators on Monday took out 56 warrants charging one student as the ringleader of the fake ID ring and two others as distributors.
They were identified by police as Nelson Agaturuchi Nwannunu, 20; Tom Lennart Larsson, 20; and Zain Haider Abidi, 18.
Nwannunu was charged with 36 counts of manufacturing fraudulent identification, police said, and Larsson and Abidi were each charged with multiple counts of distribution.
Nwannunu and Abidi surrendered to authorities Tuesday afternoon and were held without bail at the Clarke County Jail.
The investigation started in November 2011, when Larsson’s roommate reported to police that Larsson “has been making, selling and distributing fraudulent identification cards” out of their dorm room at East Campus Village’s Building 1516, according to a UGA police investigator’s search warrant affidavit.
Police found in the dorm room 10 fake Florida driver’s licenses, along with a laminating machine, media storage devices and other equipment used to manufacture bogus IDs, according to the affidavit that was filed in Clarke County Superior Court.
A few weeks later, a judge signed a search warrant that ordered UGA to provide all emails the student sent and received between Aug. 1 and Nov. 28 last year, because they could contain correspondence between suspects and customers.
Additional evidence obtained from the emails and other sources convinced an Athens-Clarke County Municipal Court judge this week to sign arrest warrants charging the three students.
Though forgery equipment and materials were found in Larsson’s dorm room, Nwannunu was the alleged ringleader, according to police.
The three-person fraud ring is dwarfed by another group that has been under investigation since August 2011.
Apparently headed by two students — one attending UGA and the other enrolled at Gainesville State College in Watkinsville — the larger ring distributed more than 1,000 fake IDs to students in the Athens area and even out of state, according to court documents.
The group produced high-quality fraudulent driver’s licenses from various states that were used by underage students to get into bars and clubs, according to police.
People involved in the illegal operation even provided door-to-door service, using couriers to take photos of customers in their dorms, take down personal information for the fake IDs, then deliver the finished product at prices that ranged from $50 to $100, according to court documents.
Police have essentially wrapped up that investigation, though prosecutors may ask for some additional information before bringing charges, according to police.