Harford County is cracking down on people who buy alcohol for minors and minors who use fake IDs to try to get into local bars or to buy alcoholic beverages.
Earlier this week, a Harford County judge threw the book at a Havre de Grace woman for buying alcohol for a minor earlier this summer, and a underage woman who tried to use a fake ID was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service.
In addition to those two citations issued, the Harford County Liquor Board intends to cite four other people this week for trying to use fake IDs that have been seized by local drinking establishments, liquor board officials said Wednesday.
"We're doing it to try to prevent underage drinking. When underage kids [drink], they cause trouble; they're not experienced drinkers," Charles Robbins, the liquor board's chief inspector, said following the liquor board's meeting in Bel Air Wednesday.
Robbins briefed liquor board members about two cases that were in court earlier this week.
On Monday, District Court Judge Mimi Cooper found Annie Patrice Pratt, 43, of the 300 block of Goldeneye Court in Havre de Grace, guilty of buying alcohol for a minor and fined her $2,500.
Pratt had purchased a bottle of 66 proof Fireball cinnamon whiskey at Campus Liquors July 19 for a 17-year-old male, she had worked with at the Harford County Airpark, Robbins said. The transaction was witnessed by Robbins and two Harford County sheriff's deputies during a Cops-in-Shops detail July 19, designed to prevent illegal sales to minors. She was issued a civil citation, according to court records.
"The judge said if she could put her [Pratt] in jail, she would," Robbins told the board.
The same day in the same court, Cooper ordered Alicia Rose Eichelberger, 19, of the 900 block of Indian Landing Road in Millersville, to perform 40 hours of community service for possessing a fake ID to buy alcohol. On July 19, Eichelberger tried to use a bogus Ohio driver's license, that showed she was 23 years old, at Beverage Barn in the 3000 block of Emmorton Road in Abingdon, where Robbins and the deputies were also on a Cops-in-Shops detail.
The cashier at the Beverage Barn did not allow Eichelberger to buy a bottle of vodka because when he requested a second form of ID other than the fake she had displayed, she couldn't provide one.
According to Robbins, Eichelberger told deputies and the liquor board inspector she bought the fake ID through the now-defunct ID Chief website.
It's websites like those the liquor board is trying to warn minors about because, Robbins said, "They're really just set up to steal your identity."
The board is in the midst of a campaign to warn minors about the dangers of using fake IDs, not just because of the possible citations, but because their identity can be stolen in the process.
"They get their name, photo, signature, address, height, weight - whatever has to appear on the license - and it's shipped to an overseas website," Robbins said.
When he makes an arrest for using the fake ID, he tells the people who bought the ID to check their credit report, and in many cases they've found bank accounts and credit cards have been opened in their names, Robbins said.
"It's a pretty big problem," he said.
A handful of Harford County businesses, mostly in Bel Air, confiscate fake IDs when they catch someone trying to use one and turn them over to the liquor board to pursue criminal charges.
Establishments that participate include Looney's, Magerks, Dark Horse and the Tower, all within walking distance of each other in downtown Bel Air; Greenbrier Wine and Spirits and 7-Eleven at Route 22 and Moores Mill Road, both just east of Bel Air; Smitty's Spirits at Routes 1 and 152 in Joppa; and Good Time Liquors on Route 40 near Joppa Road.
"They're the ones — the doormen — the ones who get most of the fake IDs," Robbins said. "They do a good job."
Bars could be fined as much as $2,000 if someone with a fake ID is caught in their bar, while the maximum fine for possession of one is $500.
Looney's caught a woman with a fake Delaware ID and she told doorman that when she got it, she was advised it shouldn't be used in Harford County because it would be taken away.
"And it was," Robbins said.
Over the summer more than 100 fake IDs were seized across Harford, the inspector said.
To file charges, the liquor board has to track down the person the fake ID belongs to, as well as the person who used it, which can be difficult, Robbins said.
The citations pending this week against four other people are all the result of confiscations over the summer that board inspectors, who work closely with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, are just catching up on, Robbins said.