Richmond Mounties are continuing to investigate a suspected “sophisticated forgery lab” operating out of an unnamed man’s apartment.
At a media event Thursday, Insp. Michael Cohee, Richmond RCMP’s officer-in-charge of investigative services, described “a production line of fraudulent IDs” discovered by fraud investigators.
Cohee displayed seized commercial-grade printers, laminators and presses police believe have been used to forge security features in phony government identification cards, as well as fake credit cards.
The forged items can be used to evade police or to commit fraud against members of the public, said Cohee, adding that the potential losses from this alleged racket is likely in the millions of dollars.
U.S. Homeland Security tipped Richmond RCMP last year, said Cohee, after border officials seized suspected fraudulent IDs, leading to the execution of a search warrant at an undisclosed Richmond apartment on Dec. 22.
There, Cohee says his team seized otherwise legal equipment that's capable of producing the fake items. Police also seized thousands of blank identification cards, numerous suspected stolen cellphones, stolen mail, cash and a Rolex watch.
However, many questions remain about the seizure and initial arrest of the man, who is Canadian. Cohee wouldn’t provide any further information about the suspect, as he has been released on conditions pending further investigation. Cohee said he expects investigators to issue more search warrants for property, including cellphone devices. Cohee also said he expects investigators to soon file a wide-range of charges against the individual, including identity theft, forgery and fraud.
One of the more significant seized items is a $4,000 ultraviolet light printer that can create raised text and numbers and cure fake holograms on cards.
The fake IDs seized were for Alberta, Ontario and Washington State. No passports were located at the apartment.
It’s also unclear who the man is working for, if anyone. Cohee said it’s likely the man was using fake IDs and credit cards for personal gain but in similar circumstances, such forgery labs can lead to clients involved in organized crime.
“The way this was set up; this was his full-time job,” said Cohee.
The seizure is a reminder to the public to be vigilant about securing one's personal information, said Cohee, noting thieves will try any means to gain pieces of someone’s identity, including rummaging through garbage.
Cohee said it’s important to shred or conceal personal information on discarded documents. He suggests people use e-billing when possible, avoid unknown texts and phone calls (“fishing” tactics) and regularly check their credit report.
The investigation was conducted by the Richmond RCMP Economic Crime Unit and Drug Target Team, which is part of the RCMP Organized Crime Unit.