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Archive for Wednesday, January 20, 1999

FAKE ID OPERATION FOUND AT FRATERNITY

January 20, 1999

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Police seized equipment used to make false driver's licenses at the Alpha Tau Omega house, but haven't made any arrests.

Lawrence police busted a makeshift driver's license operation at a Kansas University fraternity house and are continuing to interview house members to find out how many were involved.

No one was arrested in connection with the illegal operation as of Monday night.

A police spokesman said the seized documents are "medium grade" forgeries.

The discovery, made Friday afternoon while police were investigating an unrelated burglary at the Alpha Tau Omega House, 1537 Tenn., comes as KU leaders continue to search for solutions to combat widespread under-age drinking in Lawrence.

"This is a small industry here, especially with the new technology available," said City Manager Mike Wildgen.

Police seized a computer, computer discs, laminating equipment, high-grade computer paper and at least half a dozen fake driver's licenses in various stages of completion.

"These were works in progress," Sgt. George Wheeler said. "We have interviewed several people in the house, but we haven't talked to all of the individuals involved."

Wheeler said a common method of altering licenses used to involve removing the plastic covering, and either placing a new photo on the license or changing the last two numbers in the person's birthdate. With computer equipment, however, the method has changed.

The suspect in the ATO case apparently scanned a license and changed the birth date on a computer screen, Wheeler said. The final product lacks the hologram on genuine licenses, and the reproduction isn't as crisp as the original.

Craig Hartman, ATO president, said a freshman who is under investigation has been expelled from the chapter and that no one else was involved.

"This was not a house operation," said Hartman, who has talked to police and university officials, as well as representatives of the national ATO headquarters.

"The house had no knowledge this was going on; it was confined to one room," Hartman said. "From what I've learned, this wasn't any elaborate ID-making scheme."

Hartman said he doesn't believe anyone else affiliated with the ATO organization is involved, but if an investigation shows there are other members involved, the house will take "swift and appropriate action."

The ATO house already is feeling the effects of a university reprimand. The fraternity was suspended last October following a hazing incident. Hartman wouldn't discuss the incident, but said 25 members were forced out in a process to cleanse the ranks.

The fraternity has been banned from some university events, but its status will be reviewed in April.

Bill Nelson, associate director of the Organizations and Leadership Center at KU, said an illegal driver's license operation at the house could affect the decision to lift the suspension.

If the student was acting on his own, the university likely won't blame the fraternity for his actions, Nelson said. But if an investigation uncovers a knowledge among ATO leaders, the university could consider penalties.

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is ckoger@ljworld.com.

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