Liquor retailers fear DMV theft may spawn fake licenses

Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2000

ANCHORAGE - Some of Alaska's liquor purveyors expect to see a surge of phony drivers' licenses from underage drinkers following the weekend theft of plastic laminate sleeves from a Department of Motor Vehicles office.

Many who sell liquor fear authentic-looking fakes will be easier to make because a hologram of the state seal is imbedded in all DMV sleeves, including the 1,900 that were stolen.

DMV deputy director Chuck Hosack said counterfeiters would still have to pull off a ``pretty professional job'' to succeed. Counterfeit portrait photos, for example, would produce telltale bumps felt through the laminate once the photo was mounted on the license data card, Hosack said.

But O.C. Madden, a security manager at Brown Jug liquor stores, invited reporters to Anchorage on Monday to see a handful of fake licenses and IDs clerks have confiscated from underage patrons within the past year.

The four cards, among hundreds Brown Jug has seized, are dead ringers to the untrained eye.

``This is the first computer-printed card we confiscated,'' Madden said, pointing to a license seized about a year ago.

Madden said he has a hunch that the weekend theft, from the Anderson DMV office southwest of Fairbanks, may not be the first, based on what often looks like authentic material used in fakes. But Hosack said the recent theft was the first one he could remember in 22 years with the DMV. Usually burglars take money, license plates or license tabs, he said.

Hosack said an official state driver's license contains other security features that make it nearly impossible to reproduce.

Madden conceded he's yet to see a perfect replica. Each of the cards confiscated by Brown Jug had small flaws - the wrong typeface, for example - that were caught by well-trained clerks.

But the day of foolproof duplication is coming, Madden predicted.

``The nature of the flaws are so insignificant it would be easy to overcome them,'' he said.

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