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“We gotta get the fuck out of here,” says Will Trosclair, panting as he climbs into the passenger seat of the door of Josh Talbot’s* black sedan.
Shenzhen Hologram Co Diytrade Products Sticker China Suppliers Profile Ltd - Company Manufacturer Label Manufacturers It’s a little after 5:50 p.m. on September 22, 2011, and Josh is idling outside house number 1030 at the Summit of Athens in Athens, Ga. He had come to pick up Will from his friend Tyler Ruby’s house because the two had ridden to Augusta together earlier to check in with their probation officer. Will, a junior at the University of Georgia, and Tyler, a Gainesville State College student, had been arrested previously at the Masters golf tournament, where they tried to cut the line at a bar and showed a police officer two fake IDs they had made.Report Sign University’s It’s Alarming Columns Ocolly State Student Is More Than Id Oklahoma Opinion com A Hacking
Four undercover cop cars are parked outside Tyler’s cream-colored house, and he and his two roommates are standing outside with an officer as police search the rooms.
“I’ll tell you once we get out of the neighborhood,” Will says.
Josh steps on the gas and the two hightail it out of the rusty white gate, his mind awash with the action-packed visuals that accompany Will’s explanation. Cops busting in with guns and a search warrant. Everyone throwing fake IDs in closets. Police ordering Will, Tyler and his two roommates to please step outside while we search the residence. When Josh pulled up to the house, he’d hoped his friends Will and Tyler had just gotten pulled over on their way back from Augusta. But the sinking feeling he’d had turned out to be justified.
“We gotta go to Lambda right now and get everything out of the rooms and boxes,” Will says. Josh takes a right on S. Milledge Ave., heading towards the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity house at the University of Georgia.
Meanwhile, back at the cream-colored house, detectives searching Tyler Ruby’s room seize an Apple iMac computer, a silver Toshiba laptop, a black Fargo ID printer, a flash drive, driver’s license hologram laminates from Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and New Jersey and a camera memory card. Cops carry 200 blank ID cards outside, as well as four fake Florida driver’s licenses for Aeriel Stewart, Bill Smith, Colton Huebner and Maci Moody.
While evidence pointed to a significantly-sized case, it would take University of Georgia police months of processing, over 300 student interviews, and an in-depth investigation reaching four states and over five universities in order to realize the size of the fake ID “ring” — a small operation begun by Tyler Ruby and some Brookwood classmates in high school. After Will got his first MIP freshman year of college, he and Tyler became good friends while fulfilling community service requirements. Feeling poor, trying to keep up with the fast-paced lifestyles of his wealthy friends and paying for his fraternity membership had propelled Will to get involved with Tyler’s hobby. After that, it spiraled out of control as more and more students wanted to play individual parts in making a quick buck.
Josh, who started thinking he needed a fake ID shortly after arriving at UGA, wasn’t unlike a large percentage of other college students — especially those in Greek organizations. A 2011 study at a Midwestern university shows fake ID usage rising among male Greek students from about 23 percent to about 56 percent between fall semester freshman year and spring semester sophomore year, and about 9 percent to 15 percent for male non-Greek students. The same study shows fake ID usage increasing from 17 percent to 59 percent in female Greek students and 9 percent to 19 percent for female non-Greek students.
In August 2013, almost two years after police searched Tyler’s house, 21 students were indicted by an Athens-Clarke County judge in conjunction with producing and distributing fake IDs. Seventeen of them attended the University of Georgia. According to the indictment documents for the two main players, Will Trosclair and Tyler Ruby, the fake IDs were made and distributed between February 10, 2010 and October 31, 2011 and sold for anywhere between $50 and $100 depending on the ID quality.
Candice O’Brien* enters through the doorway of 262 Creswell Hall, which is only three doors down from the room she shares with Ashley Hampton.
Bianca Waters, her resident assistant, invites Candice to sit with her on the futon and tries to figure out why Candice doesn’t feel comfortable discussing an awkward sorority rush situation with her roommate.
She prods, asking if Ashley does anything weird. Bianca has heard about her habit of photographing other students standing against the white wall outside her dorm room and asks for confirmation that she’s involved with fakes somehow.
Candice agrees nonchalantly. She’d never heard of a fake ID before Ashley’s pre-college Facebook message, which asked if she wanted to buy one made by Ashley’s high school friend and neighbor, Tyler Ruby. She recalls distinct moments with her roommate that are different from the average freshman’s experience.
Stopping outside Creswell’s front entrance on their way home from Walmart, being introduced to three boys who give Ashley money and go on their way.
Lunch at ECV dining hall with Ashley and two of her friends, who all wanted Candice to buy a fake ID. Ashley pulling out her green-topped Florida fake to show Candice. Politely declining the offer.
Although she doesn’t think it’s a very big deal that her roommate distributes fakes, one instance looms in Candice’s memory that made her especially uncomfortable.
“I don’t have anyone else to talk to,” Candice tells Bianca, describing a “bad situation.”
Driving to grab a bite to eat on a dark fall night, Ashley asked one of her friends from Statesboro and Candice if it was cool if they stopped by the Summit apartment complex. She plugged “1035 Barnett Shoals Road, Athens, Ga. 30605” into her roommate’s iPhone and, when they arrived, exchanged money and IDs. Candice assumed this was the friend that made fakes Ashley Facebook-messaged her about before they met in person. Ashley introduced Candice to her neighbor back home and high school classmate, Tyler Ruby. Candice also met Josh that night.
Bianca looks concerned. Candice focuses large, deer-in-headlights eyes upon her R.A.
“I’m not trying to get her in trouble,” Candice says, worrying that Bianca might judge her roommate or gossip about the situation. She isn’t aware that Bianca will soon notify housing officials or the police.
A few days later, Candice waits in the office of a Creswell housing official, racing thoughts serving as her only company. This is so bad. Oh GOD! I don’t know what’s going on… Does Ashley know? Does she think I’m a tattletale?
After she’s led by a housing official to the Creswell conference room to speak with the detective, Candice agrees to step into the black Chevrolet Tahoe SUV and do a drive-by of the location of Ruby’s house with Detective Baughns.
Ashley Hampton had no idea that anyone had talked to the police until they arrested her.
The ringing phone’s screen flashes Will Utterburg’s name. Will Trosclair swiftly answers the president of his fraternity’s call.
“The cops are here,” says Will Utterburg from the Lambda Chi Alpha house.
“Do they have a search warrant?”
Will Trosclair’s face falls in response to the affirmative answer.
Sergeant Dustin Smith, aiding detectives in the search upstairs, chooses a dark green door, number 203. At a glance, Smith takes in the contents of the room and a money-clip-style front-pocket wallet lying on the coffee table. A Florida driver’s license sticks out of the wallet’s car sleeve. He wonders if this ID card is connected to the many Florida fakes manufactured at the home of Tyler Ruby.
Upon closer inspection, Smith notices that the Florida ID denotes the name “Tyler Richard Warren,” while a credit card and a Georgia driver’s license in the same money-clip belong to someone named Hunter Sollie. The photographs are the same. Smith collects the Florida license as evidence.
Shenzhen Hologram Co Diytrade Products Sticker China Suppliers Profile Ltd - Company Manufacturer Label Manufacturers Pete Kostopoulos is freshly home from a neighbor’s house when his mom pulls the dad-wants-to-talk-to-you card. Pete feels uneasy, remembering the call he received earlier in the week, before he came home to DeKalb County for fall break.
When he walks into his parents’ bedroom, his dad lectures him from his spot watching TV on the bed about the hazards of fake IDs, re-hashing their conversation from a few days ago after Pete explained why the UGA Police had left a voicemail on the home answering machine asking him to give them a call. He tries to listen while his dad advises him to get rid of his fake, that there’s no point to it.
Shenzhen Hologram Co Diytrade Products Sticker China Suppliers Profile Ltd - Company Manufacturer Label Manufacturers He remembers his appointment with the nice, understanding police officers earlier in the week who sat him down to tell him what was up — that they had found the guy’s list with Pete’s name on it, that they were going to talk to him, record him and ask for a written statement with as many details as he could possibly give them.
Pete tells his parents the truth when they ask, that his friend lost the fake ID Pete bought from Tyler Ruby while borrowing it downtown. He also admits he has another one. His parents, visibly upset, try to convince him to get rid of it, but they don’t force his hand.
For Will Trosclair, the following two years started out with seemingly endless tension and fear. Every time he’d hear a knock on the door, he’d get freaked out. Will was kicked out of Lambda Chi, and the police showed up outside the fraternity house, outside his classroom, trying to get something, anything, out of him.
There’s a big difference between 1035 Barnett Shoals Road, apartment 1030 and 1030 Barnett Shoals Road, and Will and Josh discovered the police’s mistake after obtaining a copy of the search warrant from a friend at Lambda Chi’s lawyer mother. The law states that, if they had had the proper funds, everyone could haveShenzhen Hologram Co Diytrade Products Sticker China Suppliers Profile Ltd - Company Manufacturer Label Manufacturers challenged the warrant in court, and all seized evidence from the address could have been rendered unusable under the exclusionary rule.
After a year of feeling constantly paranoid, Will and Josh started to think they might be safe, that the faulty search warrant really did halt the allegations. When Will started going around telling people, “I’m the fake ID guy,” Josh halfheartedly told him to lie low because they weren’t out of the woods yet. But neither of them could have dreamed that University of Georgia police were concurrently conducting the eight-month investigation that reached colleges including Georgia Southern University, Ole Miss, the University of Alabama and Northwestern University.
Will’s parents took him out of school at the end of his junior year fall semester so he could live at home and work a hard-labor job at a contracting company and, later, at Sunglass Hut. A chemistry major, Will had chosen dentistry as his goal after graduation, but he began losing his motivation and setting his sights on a different passion while living at home — making music. While focusing his energy on writing new songs and playing venues around the South with the William Finley Band, he realized he never really cared about his fraternity or that lifestyle and those guys weren’t his real friends anyway. Meanwhile, Tyler stopped taking classes at Gainesville and worked as a valet at an upscale hotel in Atlanta. He started up a website-design company and started turning a profit.
The months wore on, and the police showed up less and less. They stopped by Josh’s place and left a business card to get more information on the case; Josh immediately ripped it up and threw it in the toilet.
Everyone tells Will and Josh that they got lucky. Really lucky.
It’s about 9 a.m. on a Monday in late October, and Raul Romans* is sleeping with the windows open.
In the adjacent living room, a beer pong table supports an array of cups and cans emanating the stale-beer smell found all-too-commonly in college guys’ apartments. Alcohol drips and spills add flavor to the remnants from Saturday’s party and contrast sharply with the overhead fan’s elegant white light.
Raul doesn’t hear the knock on the front door and only wakes fully when his roommate knocks and cracks open his bedroom door.
“There are some cops here to see you.”
Raul throws on a pair of gym shorts and the first shirt he sees.
“We know you have a fake ID,” one of the two officers says. Raul’s face immediately arranges itself into his shit-that’s-not-what-I-want-to-deal-with-right-now look. He relaxes when they tell him that if he cooperates and gives them the ID nothing will happen to him.
When they ask to come in, he immediately regrets his and his roommates’ decision not to clean up the living room Sunday because they were too hung over. He leads them past the trashed living room, hoping there’s nothing illegal out, and invites them into his room.
Raul sits on his computer chair while the police officers make themselves comfortable sitting on his bed. He tells them what happened to the best of his ability.
It was the fall of 2010 when Raul and two friends drove to the Summit of Athens after taking individual photos and emailing them to Tyler Ruby. Their sight upon entering the house was Tyler sitting there with the three IDs already made. He’d printed them on a miniature printer and charged Raul $60.
When they’ve finished asking questions, Raul hands the fake ID to the two officers sitting on his bed — his 21st birthday is on November 4, which is less than two weeks away.
Raul opts not to go to class and instead calls his friends the second the cops leave. “Listen, they’re coming around to get the fake IDs — just give it to them and tell them what happened.”
It’s Friday, and Josh Talbot is on break from working a double shift at his restaurant job when his phone rings.- 1 Oklahoma X net State 1800 2880 Wallpaper Cowboys Stmed
“Is this [Josh Talbot]?”
“There’s an active warrant out for your [and Will Trosclair’s] arrests. I wanted to let you know.”
The officer says they should turn themselves in as soon as possible, but they wait until Tuesday so the police won’t be able to keep them over the weekend.
Shenzhen Hologram Co Diytrade Products Sticker China Suppliers Profile Ltd - Company Manufacturer Label Manufacturers Josh and Will wore blazers and ties to the police station to turn themselves in. While they sat in the waiting room for two hours, officers would walk by and seem to assume they were attorneys or lawyers.
“Hey, how are you doing today?”
Hey, just here to turn ourselves in, Josh thinks.
Athens-Clarke County lost all of Josh’s and Will’s bond papers, so they were incarcerated for nine hours.
That’s convenient, Josh thinks.
Shenzhen Hologram Co Diytrade Products Sticker China Suppliers Profile Ltd - Company Manufacturer Label Manufacturers Will sits in the UGA law library doing research for hours upon hours, trying to find some sort of loophole that could save them.
Out of the 21 students indicted, 19, including Josh, joined the Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s pretrial diversion program, which gives first-time offenders a second chance at a clean criminal record. The program outlines they each must pay a $1,000 fine, complete 100 hours of community service and abide by the law for two years. Tyler and Will, however, were each made to pay $4,000 more in fines, go through five years of probation and serve 60–120 days at a detention center. Luckily for them, their felony charges (nine counts for Tyler, 16 counts for Will) changed to misdemeanors because they were under 21 at the time. Will Trosclair and Tyler Ruby served out their sentences at Colwell Detention Center. Will says it was a shock to say the least — after two years living his life clean, it was three months in jail, having his head shaved to look like all the guys around him and a military cop screaming at close range. “They tried to make us look like we were domestic terrorists,” says Will. “We’re just kids who made a mistake.”
Police chief Jimmy Williamson comes across as impartial about the case. He says he didn’t make the drinking age, and there are laws in place prohibiting these actions because of the risk students associated with overconsumption pose to themselves and others. He says parents frequently want to blame downtown businesses, but he isn’t foolish enough to think there would be such a large market for fake IDs if some businesses weren’t trying to do the “right thing.”
Josh’s outrage over the media portrayal of the “ring” progressed because, according to him, it wasn’t like that at all — Will and Tyler weren’t quasi-kings who had lesser “couriers” doing errands and increasing business. Tyler and Will made fake IDs, but the rest of the “ring,” he says, were people like Ashley Hampton who wanted to make fast cash, emailed Tyler or Will a list of IDs to make, and sold them for more than the two would have so as to pocket the extra money. Josh kept on fuming at the miscellaneous fact errors in online articles, as well as the barrage of negative comments from strangers calling them pretentious, rich and spoiled.
On Josh’s first day of classes as a sophomore, he picked up a copy of UGA’s student newspaper, the Red & Black, to find his own face staring back at him in a cover story ID-graphic compilation showing all the indicted faces. The headline? “One Ring to Fool Them All.”South In Us93 Us93 South Nevada
Will says he doesn’t have any regrets since his life experiences have made him who he is and taught him lessons, but there are things he might do differently. “I had a good time doing it; people thought it was badass, but… It’s a two way thing. It taught me a lot of lessons, and it’s made me who I am, but it’s one of those things that you a little bit regret as you get older.” He says it’s not necessarily something a girl wants to tell her father. But he’s proud of himself for how far he’s come, and he clings to his successes. “Kids told me I ruined my life — I’m doing so much better than them in so many different ways,” he says, making an example point that some people he went to school with are selling Rodan + Fields on Facebook. “Doing ID stuff I always was a businessman,” he says. “That’s why I keep getting hired by places even though it’s supposed to hold you back.”
So where are they now? Will works in the media and broadcast industry in Atlanta, putting some of the money he makes towards recording his country music in a studio (and released an EP last week). He says Tyler has opened up multiple online companies — apps and websites — since then and is a successful entrepreneur. Josh is still in college and when he graduates, he’ll probably go into digital media and become Will’s lead guitarist.
Shenzhen Hologram Co Diytrade Products Sticker China Suppliers Profile Ltd - Company Manufacturer Label Manufacturers “I was 19 years old,” says Will of the experience. “I was young, dumb, I made a mistake and I really didn’t consider what I was doing at the time was wrong, even though you know it was deep down. It was the day they knocked on Tyler’s door, we looked each other in the eyes, like telepathic communication, and I knew it was over.”
Shenzhen Hologram Co Diytrade Products Sticker China Suppliers Profile Ltd - Company Manufacturer Label Manufacturers After the interview, Will says he’s going out that night. He jokes that, since he’s 25 now, there’s no need for a fake ID.
*Name has been changed.