Thieves Smash into Nevada DMV Office, Steal Blank Licenses

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) - Authorities said they fear identity thieves were behind the smash-and-grab theft of 1,700 blank driver's licenses from a Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles office.

"This could be anything from a bunch of juveniles who want to be able to make IDs to buy beer to major criminal activity or even terrorism," Tim Bedwell, North Las Vegas police spokesman, said Tuesday. "We don't know what they took them for."

The blank licenses, with laminated covers and license-making equipment, were taken after a vehicle rammed through the back wall of a DMV office at the end of a road in a remote industrial area about 1 a.m. Monday.

"It appears they knew what they wanted," Bedwell said. "We got the alarm and responded, but by the time we got there they were gone."

DMV spokesman Kevin Malone said Tuesday that along with blank licenses and laminated covers, a digital license camera, a camera computer and a license printer were taken.

The equipment contained no driver information, and would not work without a connection to the DMV's mainframe computer in Carson City, Malone said. He added that the computer link was designed to thwart hacking.

"It would be very, very difficult to break the encryption," he said.

However, the officials said false information could be placed on blank licenses and covered with authentic laminates and holographic seals, making the fake licenses indistinguishable from real licenses.

With enough other personal information, an identity thief could use the card to cash checks or open bank accounts in someone else's name.

"It's been pondered that this has national security interests," Bedwell said. "But it's easier to pass a fake ID to a teller than to use it to get on a plane and fly internationally."