Early Tuesday afternoon, Fredericksburg police arrested University of Mary Washington student John Bonino on charges of facilitating the manufacture of fictitious official identification.
Bonino was charged with a class one misdemeanor, for which the maximum penalty is 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
According to police, Bonino, 19, was arrested at his Arrington Hall dorm after detectives served a search warrant at 12:35 p.m. and recovered a package containing multiple fake driver’s licenses issued to 11 different individuals, all of whom supplied the manufacturer with their real names and photographs for the ID’s.
The arrest followed an investigation that spanned several weeks, beginning with the interception of the package by the U.S. Postal Inspector’s Service. The agency flagged the package, shipped from China, as suspicious.
The Department of Homeland Security also aided in the investigation.
According to a statement released by the Fredericksburg Police Department, Bonino reportedly arranged for the ordering and purchasing of the fake ID’s for himself and six fellow UMW students, as well as four other college students who attend school outside of the Fredericksburg area. All of the involved students are in their freshman or sophomore year of college.
The UMW Police Department assisted in the investigation as well, according to Fredericksburg Police Department Public Information Officer Natatia Bledsoe. The force was aware of the ongoing investigation once local police were aware that it was being shipped to an address on campus about a week ago, according to UMW Police Lieutenant Mike Hall. They also helped in serving the warrant and identifying involved students.
As stated in the release, “the ID’s are extremely authentic in appearance and are facsimiles of driver’s licenses from various different states.”
Fredericksburg police encourage all intended recipients of the ID’s to contact them.
Three students have already come forward and the police are currently setting up interviews with them. According to Bledsoe, they have also reached out the colleges where the four non-UMW students attend.
Regarding those involved, Bledsoe said, “Our intent is to turn over students to the university for judicial processes but that doesn’t mean they won’t be charged.”
Bledsoe continued about the resolution of the investigation, “It is still very much in flux at this stage.”
Director of Judicial Affairs and Community Responsibility Ray Tuttle said, “Bear in mind that the judicial system does not hold students responsible for violations of the law; it holds them responsible for violations of the UMW Code of Conduct. To the best of my knowledge, there is no judicial precedent for handling on-campus incidents related to the possession or use of false identification.”
The Honor Council would most likely deal with the students, according to Tuttle and Honor Council President Aaron McPherson.
“The Honor Council has never dealt with anyone who has manufactured fake ID’s before. As of right now there is no precedent for such a violation, but will fall under “lying” as a violation of the honor code,” McPherson said.
According to McPherson, “The maximum sanction that the Honor Council can assign is expulsion and the minimum sanction is community service or the completion of an honor education seminar. In a situation where the honor violation isn’t academic, such as stealing or lying, we would usually assign a sanction like community service or honor education. That being said, I wouldn’t say a sanction like suspension or expulsion is off the table. But in a case involving lying or stealing it is very very rare.”
Unlike the Honor Council, the UMW police have seen infractions like this before.
“That’s not something new to UMW or new to the nation for that matter,” said Hall.
According to the release, Bonino was released by the magistrate on a $2,500 bond following his arrest.
Bonino declined comment.