Two electronics wizards and an accomplice pleaded guilty yesterday in Baltimore County to making fake driver's licenses and selling them to minors as young as 16, some of whom were caught drinking at bars.
Prosecutor Steven I. Kroll identified the "brains behind the operation" as James Ryley III, 20, of Bel Air and Christopher Raimondi, 19, of Kingsville, who operated cameras, laminators and other equipment.
Raymond Fisher, 20, was the "social butterfly" of the group, the charismatic salesman who escorted customers through the assembly operation in the basement of his home in Essex, Mr. Kroll said.
The men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to forge and falsify licenses. Circuit Judge Leonard S. Jacobson sentenced the first-time offenders to three years in jail, with all but 45 days suspended. He also imposed three years' supervised probation.
Investigators believe the ring produced nearly 1,000 fake licenses, and they said the three young men were even clever enough to recall cards they had issued that lacked a proper state seal.
"If you can get a good ID, it opens up the possibility of other things," said Sherman B. Swartz, one of three Motor Vehicle Administration investigators who cracked the ring. "You can get into bars or buy alcohol. With it, you can get a little more information and wipe whole bank accounts out."
Teen-agers learned by word of mouth of the forgery ring, which made licenses nearly as good as the MVA's. The only differences were that the blue backdrop was not the same tint as the state's and the forgeries were slightly flimsier.
The ring members sold cards for $50 to $75 each and even extended credit.
The three met while working at Impulse, an electronics store at White Marsh Mall. They operated ring for nearly a year until last September, when police arrested them after receiving information from teen-age buyers and a bouncer who had confiscated fake cards at a local club.
The three maintained their innocence until yesterday, changing their pleas as dozens of teen-agers summoned to testify filed into the courtroom. The judge told the youngsters who came to testify that they were just as guilty as the three young men who'd been convicted. But he left their punishment in the hands of their parents.