Police seize more than 2,000 fake IDs in 2010

ID CRACKDOWN: Stores such as Tops Liquors in Tempe are cracking down on fake IDs, confiscating dozens every year and posting them proudly on the wall as a warning to potential violators. (Photo by Lisa Bartoli)

Tempe Police seized more than 2,000 false identification cards last year in the Mill Avenue District, police reported Monday.

Police reported that most of the 2,064 fake IDs were seized from Mill Cue Club, Zuma Grill and School of Rock, formerly Cherry Lounge and Pit.

The most commonly used fake IDs appeared to be from Arizona, followed by California and Texas. In most cases, employees at the bars seized the fake IDs and turned them over to police.

Bryon Russell, the owner of Zuma Grill, said one-third of the fake IDs were seized from his establishment. He also pointed out that the numbers could be higher than what the police reported because some of the IDs were shredded by club employees on the premises.

Russell believes that his business receives so many fake IDs because of Zuma Grill’s proximity to ASU’s Tempe campus and because the business is strict when it comes to whom they hire.

“A lot of our staff, especially our doormen, are former police or military members,” he said. “We hold our staff to a very high standard.”

Russell believes another factor in catching so many underage people is the fact that Tempe Police have been working with several of the bars on Mill, teaching them how to spot a false ID.

“Tempe PD comes in periodically to give classes and PowerPoint presentations about what to look for in IDs and what the recent trends are in ID forgery,” Russell said.

According to Russell, doormen look to make sure identification cards scan properly in verification machines and whether an ID, if issued in Arizona, has been flipped from vertical to horizontal.

If neither of these tests is met, doormen will look over things like height, weight and eye color.

Keith Gillespi, an employee at Tops Liquor on University Drive and Farmer Avenue, said what he most often questions is people’s zodiac signs.

“Everyone knows what their horoscope is,” he said. “If they don’t, I question their ID.”

Gillespi said the best way to tell if an ID is fake is from experience, which he has from working at Tops for six years.

He explains that every liquor establishment is given a book showing what the ID from each state looks like and what different holograms or logos they have. These materials are updated yearly.

“There’s at least one flaw in every fake,” Gillespi said.

Tempe Police spokesman Sgt. Steve Carbajal said underage persons using fake IDs could face punishment either in the form of a fine or, in extreme cases, an arrest.

Russell said that at Zuma Grill they don’t usually get the police involved because they realize Tempe Police have more important things to attend to than underage drinkers.

He said if they suspect the ID is a fake, employees just take it away and let the person go. If the person is persistent in saying the ID is real, Russell will invite them to grab a cop to verify it. If Zuma Grill is wrong, the first round is on the house.

However, Russell said not all people are smart enough to take the opportunity to leave if their fake is discovered.

“You’d be surprised how many people don’t walk away. [They] get a police officer, get caught with a fake ID and are arrested,” he said.

Reach the reporter at danielle.legler@asu.edu