COLLEGE PARK -- Federal authorities investigating the forgery of 300 driver's licenses on the University of Maryland campus are offering students a chance to turn in the phony IDs without facing charges.
David M. Adams, a Secret Service agent involved with the investigation, said students who bought the $60 licenses can mail or bring the IDs to the campus police office. No deadline has been set for their return.
People who don't turn over the licenses face a maximum $500 fine and two months in prison if they are caught.
Mr. Adams said the government wants the fake licenses back because they can be used for a range of illegal activities in addition to underage drinking. With such a license, for example, the holder can open bank accounts, receive loans, buy guns and possibly obtain U.S. citizenship.
The UM student charged with the forgeries said yesterday that he hasprovided the Secret Service with the names of students who bought the IDs to help authorities recover the fakes.
"When I made these IDs, I lacked foresight," said Bradley T. Yarnell, 20, of Cherry Hill, N.J. "It was really a stupid thing to do. Now, I'm trying to correct a problem I helped create."
Mr. Adams said the student admitted making 300 fake New Jersey licenses, which may have circulated through 60 other colleges as far away as Arizona. Mr. Yarnell, who is studying computer science and mathematics at College Park, was arrested Saturday in his eighth-floor dormitory room at Ellicott Hall.
"I never really knew that it was that big of a deal," said Mr. Yarnell, who transferred from the University of Miami (Fla.) last fall. "I have admitted to everything. I'm not looking to wiggle out of anything. I'm not looking to get off on some technicality."
The forgeries were made using a poster-sized board depicting a New Jersey driver's license. Students would stand behind it and place their heads through a hole where a photograph would be on a license. Then a photo would be taken, trimmed to size and laminated.
University police said that the forgeries are extremely well done but that some details give them away.
If convicted on state charges, Mr. Yarnell faces up to $2,000 in fines and two years in prison for each license made. No trial date has been set. While the Secret Service is investigating, no federal charges have been filed. Mr. Yarnell also faces expulsion from the university.
"I've gotten myself into a big mess. I'm praying it works out," said Mr. Yarnell, who has not yet retained a lawyer. "I really don't want to go to jail, but it's a distinct possibility."