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Phony driver's licenses could cost Towson students their right to drive


At least 13 Towson State University students could lose thei right to drive a car in Maryland because they bought fake driver's licenses.

The students, who are under 21, bought the counterfeit Virginia licenses three months ago so that they could buy alcoholic beverages, Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration investigators said.

More Towson students could face similar administrative action in the near future, said MVA Administrator W. Marshall Rickert, who described the investigation as "active."

"This has been a problem facing motor vehicle administrations over the years," said Mr. Rickert, referring to the use of fake identification by young drinkers. "A close look and you could tell it was counterfeit, but generally it was pretty good."

Police said up to 20 Towson students may be involved. University spokeswoman Kathy Williams said school officials are reviewing the case and have not decided what action, if any, should be taken against the students.

The fake licenses allegedly were the handiwork of Mathew Aaron Abar, 22, a part-time church organist who lives in Ridgeley, W.Va., across the Potomac River from Cumberland.

Mr. Abar was arrested and charged with forgery of public documents and seals after an April 5 raid on his home by state police in West Virginia. Police said they confiscated a computerized desktop publishing system and applications for fake IDs from about 200 students, mostly from West Virginia University.

Among the documents uncovered in the raid were applications for fake IDs from Towson State students. The forms contained both real and phony information about each applicant, said Cpl. Kam Jeffries of the West Virginia State Police.

Mr. Abar's records were "meticulous," one investigator said, including even signed statements by the students testifying that they weren't affiliated with any police agency.

Police said Mr. Abar used his computer to print fake West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia driver's licenses. Someone working for him allegedly set up a temporary fake ID clearinghouse at the Towson East Motel Feb. 19 and 20 to accommodate customers at Towson State.

The Towson students allegedly met the assistant in the second-floor room during the night. For $50, their photographs were taken and a laminated driver's license with a fictitious address was produced, investigators said. In some cases, the students used their own names on the licenses.

Mr. Rickert said the Towson students have been "generally cooperative" with investigators. He said that is one reason they face administrative action and not criminal charges.

The MVA has not publicly released the names of the students involved. They will have to attend a hearing to show why their Maryland driver's licenses should not be suspended or revoked, Mr. Rickert said.

Some of the Towson students are from out of state. They face a potential loss of driving privileges in Maryland and action by the motor vehicle agencies in their home states.

Virginia has the option of prosecuting Mr. Abar for making the phony Virginia driver's licenses, but the Towson students will not have to face charges there, Corporal Jeffries said.

MVA officials said their actions against the Towson students should be a warning to teen-agers who are tempted to purchase fake IDs. Efforts to stem the ID trade in the past have been aimed largely at the people who made them and the establishments that accepted them, Mr. Rickert said.

"These people [underage drinkers] create the market for fake driver's licenses, and we have to go after that," he said.

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