Edison man admits to role in building Virginians’ fake-identification scheme

EDISON — A township man pleaded guilty to his role in a fake-identification ring based in Charlottesville, Va., according to U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy.

Michael A. DelRio, also known as Copernicus Lionheart, 19, submitted his guilty plea March 5 to one count of conspiracy to commit identification document fraud in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville.

“Mr. DelRio played a significant role in perpetuating a hightech and sophisticated scheme to produce and sell high-quality false identification documents all across the nation,” Heaphy said. “He worked to develop a web-based interface for potential customers that, if deployed, would have made the criminal enterprise even more lucrative than it was.”

Previously, Alan McNeil Jones, Kelly Erin McPhee and Mark Gil Bernardo, all of Charlottesville, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit identification fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft for their roles in the conspiracy, according to Heaphy’s office. The trio also previously admitted to conspiring to create fraudulent driver’s licenses at the home they shared 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, according to Heaphy’s office.

As part of the scheme, Jones paid commissions to students at the University of Virginia and elsewhere to refer his service to other students. He also outsourced some of the manufacturing work to Bangladesh and China.

According to Heaphy’s office, Jones and Bernardo recruited DelRio to streamline the website for their business. Jones paid DelRio $15,000 to build a website that would allow customers to directly input biographical information, which would then be printed on the fraudulent identification document each customer had ordered. Allowing customers to enter information via a secure, offshore 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 to produce.

DelRio faces a maximum possible penalty of up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.