A federal grand jury indicted a former University of Maryland student Wednesday on charges that he produced and sold fake IDs.
An indictment says that 20-year-old Theodore Steven Michaels, of Potomac, created and distributed fraudulent Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania driver's licenses to individuals under 21 between October and December of 2009 out of his U.Md. Dorm room.
Federal prosecutors claim that Michaels and an unnamed, uncharged roommate used a commercial ID printer encoder to manufacture at least 15 very realistic licenses.
Michaels allegedly told acquaintances at a Montgomery County high school that the IDs were nearly authentic, featuring holograms and the ability to be read by swipe card readers like those used at bars. He allegedly received $100 to $170 for each license.
He faces 16 counts on charges of conspiracy, production and transfer of fraudulent identification documents and possession of document-making implements. Each of the production and document charges carries a potential prison sentence of 15 years.
On a campus where fake IDs are common, word of the indictment and possible penalty comes a shock.
"I know its illegal but so many kids on this campus have fake IDs and make them. So I was kind of surprised at how harshly they're reacting to this one random kid," said Michelle Hayes.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney declined to elaborate on the indictment Friday. Michaels, who lives at home with his parents in Potomac, has been advised by his lawyer not to comment. The lawyer questions why this became a federal case.
He describes Michaels as a straight-A triple-major business student. A University of Maryland website says that Michaels was awarded a scholarship from the Ernst & Young Education Excellence Fund for the 2010-11 school year.
Students say the charges may open some eyes. "I think its so common and so prevalent that people kind of forget that it is a crime. But it is actually pretty serious," said Brandon Corrado.