A Civic Project story
By Annie Coffman
INDIANA — On Sept. 3, Alycia Borden, 19, willingly handed her driver’s license to the bar bouncer who soon would have her cited for underage drinking and carrying false identification.
The brown-haired, brown-eyed nursing student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania panned the room inside Twisted Jimmy’s, a bar and lounge on Philadelphia Street, the college town’s main drag. It was much emptier than the five or six other times she came. This made her a little nervous.
She watched as the bouncer compared her ID, bought on a Chinese website, to a book of other IDs. He walked to the back of the bar and picked up the phone. She thought she should leave. When she turned around, two borough police officers were standing in front of her. They cited her for carrying false identification and drinking underage. Then they released her.
BORDEN (not her real name; she requested anonymity to prevent prospective employers from discovering her violation) is part of a growing trend of underage college students who have tried to get into Indiana bars using fraudulent identification.
Between Jan. 1, 2010, and Oct. 21, 2015, Indiana borough police filed 73 false-identification charges, according to an Oct. 21 email from Police Chief William C. Sutton.
“It is difficult to analyze the trend of this offense mainly because it is mostly a reported offense as opposed to something an officer observes,” Sutton wrote.
When an officer observes someone stumbling, the offense is public drunkenness, Sutton wrote. When someone is charged with a fake ID, a bouncer or bar owner calls it in. Police have no way of knowing how attentive owners are to fake IDs or how many they overlook.
Police Sgt. Anthony Clement agreed.
“Fake ID’s are not uncommon,” Clement said during an Oct. 7 interview in a tiny, white-walled room at the borough police office. “It’s a college town.”
The heaviest fine an underage student could receive for a fake-ID citation is $300, Clement said. And punishments for the violation are not a police concern. That is a concern of the university, where, as Clement put it, “Punishment varies.”
ACCORDING to a document on the IUP Office of Student Conduct website, first-time violators face a range of university sanctions, ranging from “stayed removal” from campus housing (which means staying put in a dorm for one year of probation, or getting kicked out in case of a second infraction) to fines and official letters home to parents or guardians.
As a first-time-offender, Borden will be placed on academic probation for a year and will be required to take an alcohol-assessment class, according to a university employee who explained the punishments to her described. Borden described them as “a slap on the wrist.”
As a nursing major, Borden said, she cannot afford to have underage and fake-ID violations on her record because prospective employers would be unlikely to hire her. She chose to go through accelerated rehabilitative disposition to get the charges expunged from her record.
Her case represents two local trends – increasing numbers of fake-ID busts and of ARD expungements.
Between 2010 and late 2015 the number of fake ID offenses reported in Indiana ranged from as low as nine to as high as 16, an increase of 78 percent. Increases in ARD cases are substantially greater. (See expungements sidebar, below.)
Source: Indiana, Pa., borough police
ANECDOTAL reports from Indiana bar bouncers suggest police reports underestimate the number of fake IDs.
Adam Hess, a 2015 IUP graduate and a Boomerangs Bar & Grill manager, said he catches up to a half dozen fake IDs on a busy night.
“One night, I caught 12 over the course of an hour,” Hess wrote in a Nov. 2 exchange of text messages.
H.B. Culpeppers, a bar two blocks down the street, catches as many as five fake IDs each weekend night, according to Tyler R. Manko, 24, a bouncer at the venue for a year and a half.
The most common states used for fake driver’s licenses are Pennsylvania and Maryland, said Manko. He and his fellow bouncers study a book of IDs to detect the difference between legit and fake. The book contains photos of driver’s permits from different states.
Tipoffs include different textures, bendability, incorrect font or type size, bubbles, emblems and holograms, Manko said.
THE TRENDS suggest that use of fake IDs in college towns is not declining.
Based on bouncers’ reports, police could cite nearly a dozen fake-ID violators a night from two of more than a dozen downtown Indiana bars. That would approach the number of fake-ID users cited by borough police in an entire year.
Borden said she may revert to using a duplicate fake ID, which arrived with her confiscated one.
“The website I ordered my ID from sent me two,” she said. “I am tempted to use it again — but probably won’t.”
Annie Coffman, a senior Journalism & Public Relations major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is from Ligonier..
Sidebar: Cyber-shopping for fake IDs
Google “fake ID.”
The first two websites listed are DoFake.com and GreatFakeID.com.
At DoFake.com, a Christmas sale advertised “One Week Sale Price $50 Fake IDs!”
The site bragged that it is “well known on campuses everywhere as ‘The Chinese guy.’” And it cited recent coverage in mainstream U.S. news media, including a February 2015 NPR report about a Pennsylvania college and a March 2014 report on an NBC-TV affiliate in Washington, D.C.
GreatFakeID.com advertises one for $125. For 10-19, they cost $70 apiece. Free shipping is offered. Turnaround time is 10-15 business days.
Prepaid gift cards are offered. Various payment methods are accepted, including Bitcoin.
— by The HawkEye staff
Sidebar: Expungement – a disappearing act for first-time offenders
INDIANA — Pennsylvania’s accelerated rehabilitative disposition law offers a break for first-time offenders in relatively minor cases, according to a page labeled Indiana County Summary ARD Program Guidelines under the student-life tab on the IUP website.
The county district attorney’s office processes ARDs. Defendants must agree to all conditions of a probationary sentence.
After completing an ARD, the defendant’s arrest record is expunged. In other words, the record is erased, as if nothing ever happened.
During an Oct. 16 discussion with a journalism class in Davis 418, Indiana borough police Chief William C. Sutton said his office desk continually has a tall stack of expungement applications on it.
“The court hands outs expungements like candy,” Sutton said. “My secretary sometimes has to come in on Saturdays to go through expungements.”
In a Nov. 12 email, Sutton said no log or other document tracks expungements. Once the expungement is complete, all official records of the arrest are erased, like George Orwell’s memory hole.
However, borough police have kept an unofficial tally since 2006, Sutton said. The tally records the number of expungement orders issued in the borough.
Expungements increased between 2006 and 2015, according to Sutton’s statistics. They rose to 286 through Nov. 12, 2015, from 132 in 2006, an increase of 116 percent.
* Through Nov. 12
Source: Indiana, Pa., borough police
The annual number of expungements has fluctuated. The two outliers were in 2008 (455 expungement cases) and 2013 (672 cases). The 2013 tally represented a 409 percent increase over the 132 reported in 2006.
— By Annie Coffman
Sidebar: For more information
For more information on this story, contact the following sources:
Indiana Borough Police Department
William C. Sutton,
Chief and borough manager
80 North Eighth St.
Indiana, Pa 15701
Phone: 724- 349-2121
Office of Student Conduct
Theodore M. “Tedd” Cogar,
Ruddock Hall, Suite G11
1099 Maple Street
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana, PA 15705