RALEIGH -- The fake driver's licenses that Robert Wayne Bullock is accused of making and selling were so good that state law enforcement officers weren't sure at first they were even fakes.
The IDs looked real in part, authorities say, because Bullock was using a printer and laminating machine stolen from the Division of Motor Vehicles. Bullock, 23, was arrested Tuesday at his home outside Hillsborough and charged with selling fake IDs.
The case began several months ago, when Wake County Alcoholic Beverage Control law enforcement officials started noticing that hundreds of college students in Raleigh were getting caught with more sophisticated fake IDs than they'd ever seen before. The IDs were being confiscated by ABC law enforcement and bar employees mostly on Hillsborough Street near N.C. State University.
Fake IDs, of course, are nothing new in college towns. But usually, it's obvious someone has altered the date of birth to make the card holder appear to be at least 21.
But these new IDs were made with unaltered dates of birth and the security holograms found on official state driver's licenses, said Lew Nuckles, chief of Wake County Alcoholic Beverage Control's law enforcement. Officers didn't know the IDs were fake until they checked the driver's license numbers and learned they belonged to other people, Nuckles said.
Nuckles' team started an investigation, talking to dozens of people caught with the fake IDs as well as other informants, looking for the person at the "top of the food chain," he said.
That investigation led to Bullock, Nuckles said. During an undercover operation over Thanksgiving, law enforcement officers bought some fake IDs from Bullock, he said.
Bullock's fake IDs sold for $150 to $170 each, Nuckles said. He would put in students' real names and addresses, then make up driver's license numbers, said Joey Gardner, assistant director of DMV's licensing and theft bureau, which also was involved in the investigation.
Gardner said they quickly suspected that Bullock was using official DMV equipment because the IDs had the state's security holograms on them.
When Nuckles, Gardner, Orange County Sheriff's deputies and officials from the State Bureau of Investigation went to Bullock's home to arrest him, they found a printer and a laminating machine that had been stolen from the DMV office in Louisburg in fall 2006, Gardner said. Two computers and another printer taken during that same burglary have not been recovered, Gardner said.
In addition, officers found 1,000 blank card stocks, rolls of color printing ribbon and full rolls of DMV security laminating paper with holograms, Nuckles said. Bullock also had a special cleaning kit needed to keep the computer operating, Nuckles said.
Bullock was taken to Wake County jail and was released Tuesday afternoon on a $5,000 bond.
Bullock is a 2007 graduate of NCSU with a bachelor's degree in chemistry. A woman who picked up his home phone said he was not available and hung up without comment.
More charges possible
Nuckles said the fake ID operation was one of the largest and most sophisticated he has seen in the area in quite some time.
He said he expects to bring additional charges against Bullock, including manufacturing fake IDs. Investigators seized five computers from Bullock's home, which they hope will tell them how many IDs he sold and to whom, Nuckles said.
Nuckles said he also expects more arrests in the case.
"Our goal was to get to the top of the food chain," he said. "We left a lot of crumbs behind us, and now we need to go back and get the crumbs."