SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Fifteen people have been arrested in connection with a scheme in which they purchased fake driver's licenses that were manufactured internationally, officials said.

Saratoga Springs Police said at least 14 teens bought the fake licenses online to buy alcohol and get into bars in the Saratoga Springs area since last summer, and police believe up to 30 more may have purchased them as well.

In some cases, alcohol was purchased for youths as young as eighth grade, police said.

But purchasing them abroad resulted in them giving their personal information to criminals in other countries that may cause serious credit problems later in life.

Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy said the licenses were "well crafted" and had many embedded security features that legitimate licenses have. They were purchased from a company in China called "ID Chief" and manufactured in eastern Europe, he said.

The IDs were able to pass muster with scanners that stores use to detect fake IDs, officials said.

"The IDs are so well crafted, that they have possess many of the enhanced security features that are embedded in the actual "real" licenses and therefore, could be used to cross into Canada or Mexico or board an aircraft," Murphy said. "Homeland Security is involved in this case and has contacted the DAs Office and advised of this concern."

The teens purchased the IDs for underage drinking, but when doing so gave their personal information to a Chinese company which has undoubtedly sold that information so that others can be used to open credit cards or create identification in their name, Murphy said.

"When the kids get older and try to get jobs, they will discover that they have hundreds of thousands of credit card debt in their name, mortgages in their name, likely won't be able to get licensed jobs, like stock brokers, pass background checks, or perhaps even renew a license, etc… because of the legal issues that those who bought their identify have incurred, like suspended licenses that others who purchased their identify will have done in their name," Murphy said in a news release.

The investigation began March 9, when one of the teens tried to buy liquor at an unspecified store in Saratoga Springs using one of the fake IDs, police said.

A customer in the store recognized him and knew his age, prompting the clerk to cancel the sale and call police.

Among those charged was the father of one of the teens, who assisted them in making the fake identification purchases.

He was identified by police as Stephen Smero, 48, of Saratoga Springs. Smero was charged with second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, a felony, and misdemeanor counts of unlawfully dealing with a child and conspiracy, according to police.

Police identified the following people as having been charged with misdemeanor counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument:

Hannah Sontz, 17, Clinton Street, Saratoga Springs

Hanna Biehn, 17 , Lexington Parkway, Niskyauna

Bradley Green, 18 , Friar Tuck Way, Saratoga Springs

Julia Ricciardi, 17 , Rolling Brook Drive, Saratoga Springs

Jamie Sampson, 18 , Acland Boulevard, Ballston Spa

Roxanne Friedman, 17 , Whistler Court, Saratoga Springs

Camila Machado, 18 , Liz Ann Drive, Saratoga Springs

Anna Smero, 17 , Locust Grove Road, Saratoga Springs

Lindsay Higgins, 17 , Oak Brook Blvd, Saratoga Springs

Olivia Poppel, 17 , Regatta View Drive, Saratoga Springs

Aspen Witt, 18 , Whistler Ct., Saratoga Springs

Kathryn Heidorn, 18 , Nicklaus Drive, Saratoga Springs

Charles Bielkiewicz, 18 , Brookside Drive, Saratoga Springs

Mark Benhaim, 19 , Bradford Circle, Marlborough, Mass.

Eleven of the suspects are Saratoga Springs High School students, two are recent graduates of the school and one is a Skidmore College student, police said.

The investigation by Saratoga Springs Police and the state Department of Motor Vehicles was continuing.

(16) comments


Wow. Somebody actually got caught. Fake ID's are very common today, even one's that scan and have these security features. Homeland Security hopefully is not just realizing that fake ID's are extremely popular but there are many sites and shipping methods where one can get them with these security features.

cracker jack

If the Police and homeland security are just getting this (I hope not) they are way behind these IDs have been around for awhile ask any college student.It's very easy to get one.

Ricky Bones
Ricky Bones

China has been a big source of these type IDs lately. This is much different than a fake ID used for getting beer for underage people.

I hope this will shed more light on this issue.

Tired of Stupid

The FBI and Homeland Security need to stage several well-publicized sting operations = place doubt and fear in the minds of potential buyers that 1. They will receive the goods ordered and 2. That the online company the buyer is ordering from might actually be Feds. Mandatory revocation of drivers’ licenses & vehicle registrations until 21st birthday upon conviction for possession are common state penalties. These need to be upgraded to federal crime status. Sadly, today’s post 9/11 world is not the same place we grew up in.


Problem's out of hand. Course, if we weren't headed toward being a police state it wouldn't be a big deal. You actually think these kids would try to use this good-but-not-perfect ID for nefarious, "terroristic" purposes? What kind of "post-911" imagined threat is present here? You can't get an international ticket without a passport. So everyone just calm their Fox-News fear-addled brains a second and see this for what it is (and always has been) - kids gettin' beer.

Muz i Belka
Muz i Belka

Yes, because we should react the same way with 18 year olds trying to get around the reduction of the drinking age (including being able to get into clubs where music's being played they would would be barred from by the alcohol laws) and fanatic terrorists trying to do suicide bombings of skyscrapers.

One of the unintended consequences of the 18 year old drinking age and the criminalization of formerly legal or trivial activities. Most kids, even back in my days as a kid in the 60s, had fake IDs. My kids had fake IDs and they aren't that hard to produce. You can work yourself into a lather about it, but 18 year olds are going to drink and have fake ids. But we ought to save the outrage for real crimes: either driving while under the influence or real threats of terrorism.

But "off with their heads" will continue to be the response of Homeland Security, the Post Star, and most of the readers of this newspaper.

::shrugs shoulders::


A lot of people seem to be missing what's really important about this story. The people selling these fake ids have been provided with all kinds of personal information. That information can and undoubtedly WILL be used by the identity thieves who market fake ids to rack up huge amounts of debt in these kids' names. Why are people so fixated on teens getting loaded as a necessary "rite of passage"? Do you really believe it's an important part of growing up? Do you really think your kids need to be getting smashed in order to fully experience their teen years? That's pretty sad.


I think the real punishment here is going to be when they try to buy a car or a house or even get a job and find out that someone has stolen their identity. I'm not against kids trying beer..I did it. I didn't have to use a fake ID. You would think in this day with all of the technology we have that you wouldn't give out personal information to someone you don't know, especially someone from a different country. Are parents teaching their kids anything anymore?? Or are they just a bunch of tax deductions? I don't think they are terrorists but what if a terrorist now has one of their ID's and commits an act under their name? Did anyone think of that? And don't say it wouldn't happen..a lot of people never thought they would see two skyscrapers come crumbling down 10 years ago either.


Dad of the year charged... Geting his 17 year old daughter a fake ID? SMH. Multiple felonies hardly seems enough.


wow, a few kids got CAUGHT with fake id's ... there is still numerous more that didnt get caught. maybe they should lay off them so much and continue to work on all the gangs around the albany/capital area. i feel like they are a little more of a threat than some high school kids with some fake id's. give them 30 hours community service and move on.


Oh no, teenagers with fake ID's so they can drink beer! Half the group can sign up to have their heads blown off in Afghanistan but can't buy a beer. The repressed old folks and MADD will keep deluding themselves and think that .08 and 21 will ever solve the problem of DD. Good luck with that.


Hard to believe making a fake identification is only a misdemeanor.

And to Mr. Murphy's point about identity theft, I don't believe the id creators would have enough information to establish credit in their names. The teens would be providing a name (probably fake), address (definitely fake if ordered through ID chief, since they don't do NY licenses). No social security and an obvious fake date of birth. The only thing they would have is a credit card number, which could be closed if there were any suspicious transactions. Maybe I'm wrong?


Phillipj, those were my exact thoughts yesterday when I read this story. I just didn't have the energy to post the comment.


lets not double the standard. If trajedy results from this, and let me assure you it does, who are you going to blame then. The store owner, the clerk? I'm willing to bet you wont blame the "minor" child who circumvented the law and made rational decisions to put themselves and others in harms way. I'm willing to bet blame will be shed on everyone other than the responsible parties. It's 11:00 o'clock, do you know where your children are? Bad parents and scapegoats go together like jack and coke! Why shouldn't this be looked at it for what it truly is: A fortunate wake up call to individuals who have lost sight of being responsible.


just because a kid is drinking or doing wrong doesnt mean that the parent is to blame. They could be the best parent in the world and their kid still sneaks around. does anyone really think a parent would knowingly let thier child buy a fake id from china? hard truth is that regardless of fake id or no fake id kids are going to drink. im not saying let them off with no repercussions, punish them but dont throw the book at them.


coming home late with what on their breath? Driving? Hanging out with who? Where? Should someone know? How are the grades? Please! If you choose to let social pressures raise your kids by "life lessons" then what do you expect. Get involved, Know what is going on in their lives. A felony vehicular manslaughter charge does not look good on a college resume. That is the difference between then and now. How many more times must we suffer from the same trajedies? If you play with fire you most certainly will be burned! We learned that the hard way, why should we knowingly let our children "learn" from what we negligently dismissed as acceptable. These are impressionable teenagers we are talking about! Become involved and dont role the dice on their futures. And yes, send the message that this risky behavior will not be tolerated, for their sake!

Welcome to the discussion.

Comments will not be posted if any of the following rules are violated:
- Comments must be contained to the topic of the articles only.
- Comments must be civil in tone and cannot contain personal insults directed toward another reader.
- Profanities cannot be used, including abbreviations or acronyms.
- Comments critical of crime or accident victims are not allowed.
- Comments that imply guilt for those arrested are not allowed.
- Comments that are potentially libelous, including those that contain accusations not supported by facts are not allowed.
- Comments that appear to be taunting others who comment are not allowed.