Guard's vigilance prompts arrest
May 16, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- As a gate guard for Fort Jackson, Michael Rees sees hundreds of identification cards every day. The forgeries are easy to spot, he said, so it was no surprise when a records check for an ID card that "looked off" determined that it was a fake.
What he wasn't expecting was the start of an Office of Homeland Security investigation that would lead to at least one arrest elsewhere in South Carolina.
"Homeland Security got a hold of me when they found out about it," said Fred Vasquez, Fort Jackson physical security officer.
The validity of driver's licenses has been a concern for post security since it was disclosed last year that hackers were targeting the state's Department of Motor Vehicles.
"It's a continuous problem we're having on Fort Jackson," Vasquez said.
The forged ID card surfaced the morning of April 13, as a vehicle with private contractors tried to enter Fort Jackson. One of the passengers in the vehicle handed Rees an ID card that felt like an authentic North Carolina driver's license, but showed subtle differences.
"It was the wrong color," Rees said of the forgery. "It was a brand-new identification card from North Carolina, but the color wasn't right. And the print was different. If you compared it to another ID card, the print was bolder."
When he tried to verify the ID card, though, the bar code printed on the reverse side gave a name and address that did not match the information on the front of the card, he said. The card had the correct weight and texture, he said, as well as the proper government watermarks.
"I've been doing this job for six years," Rees said. "We can tell just by looking at them whether (ID cards) are real or not."
"Most people just think our guards are just out there flipping ID cards at the gate," said Vicky LaPointe, chief of Department of the Army security guards for Fort Jackson. "To you and me, it would have looked like a valid ID. But, given the experience and training of these officers, they're much more attuned to noting minor imperfections in an ID card."
Vasquez said the unidentified passenger was an illegal immigrant and was arrested. Because the Homeland Security investigation into the origin of the forged ID cards is continuing, he declined to comment further on the arrest.
"It was a really good forgery," Vasquez said. "Mr. Rees did an excellent job."