N. Augusta thieves get driver's license printer

NORTH AUGUSTA --- A burglar stole a driver's license printer and laminator from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles office in North Augusta early Saturday, but officials said Monday it would be difficult for the thieves to produce phony licenses.

 

Beth Parks, the communications director for the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, said because certain supplies were not stolen with the laminator and license printer, the thieves could not make fake identification cards.

"There's no information or files on the printer," she said. "The printer has been set up to do a specific thing, but it's just a printer. The printer alone is not going to be able to print a license."

Officers responded to a burglar alarm at the building at 1913 Ascauga Lake Road shortly before 3 a.m., according to a North Augusta Department of Public Safety report.

There was a camera in the room, but it was facing the floor, the report said. An officer checked it for damage and dusted the camera for fingerprints. Parks said that camera was not used for security purposes.

"I won't say what it was for, but it was not a security camera," she said.

The equipment was replaced before the start of business Monday, Parks said.

The cost of the missing equipment and damage to a window was about $10,000.

Parks said the break-in is not the agency's first, but it has been a long time since such an incident occurred.

"It's very rare," she said. "We do have a good alarm system, so we're glad they didn't take more than they did."

The burglary suspect could face other charges, depending on what is done with the stolen printer and laminator, said North Augusta Department of Public Safety Lt. Tim Pearson.

"Highway Patrol is the only agency authorized to issue a driver's license, so if they used it to make fake ones they'd be facing fraud charges," he said.

Georgia has had occasional thefts of material used for making driver's licenses but never lost an entire machine, said Susan Sports, the public information director for the Georgia Department of Driver Services.

"We've had incidents where a break-in occurred and they had taken some of the material used in the printer," she said. "But we don't have that sort of problem anymore because all our licenses are printed at a secure facility."

Safeguarding personal information and materials used to make licenses was among the concerns that led to the more secure program, she said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not say whether the agency was investigating the North Augusta incident. Spokesman Ivan Ortiz-Delgado said the agency has a Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force in Atlanta, and "it's common for ICE to assist local law enforcement agencies in an investigation if requested."

Staff Writers Julia Sellers and Rob Pavey and Morris News Service reporter Sarita Chourey contributed to this report.

Reach Stephanie Toone and Adam Folk at (706) 724-0851.