Because of a typographical error, the serial number of a stolen validation plate used in the production of Maryland drivers' licenses was incorrectly listed in Sundays editions of The Washington Post. The correct number is 033.
In a series of break-ins and thefts beginning last April, thieves have stolen all the equipment necessary to produce bogus Maryland drivers' licenses, state motor vehicle officials announced Friday.
As a result of the thefts, 8,654 drivers' licenses bearing the serial numbers of the stolen equipment are being recalled, Motor Vehicle Commissioner Ejner J. Johnson said. All those licenses will be declared invalid Dec. 15 and new permits will be issued to those who re-apply for them.
Johnson said he believes the stolen equipment will be used to produce fraudulent licenses which then could be used as identification in such schemes as cashing bad checks or money orders.
He said police agencies throughout the area have been notified of the thefts but that so far no bogus licenses have been discovered.
There is a good possibility, Johnson speculated, that the bogus licenses could be used in fraudulent operations some distance away from Maryland.
"They would probably be used by a limited number of people to facilitate cashing of checks," he said.
The key theft in the series occured Oct.17 when a Polaroid camera and a validation plate were taken from a mobile Motor Vehicle Administration crew at the Bowie public library.
A validation plate is a transparent shield containing the seal of the state of Maryland, a serial number and the signature of the commissioner of motor vehicles. Maryland drivers licenses are produced by taking a picture through the validation plate of the license holder and the license application.
Thus the final product is a photograph of the license holder and the license application with the state seal, Johnson's signature and the serial number of the validation plate superimposed on it. The number of the stolen validation plate was 33.
Johnson said the series of thefts appears to have started in April with the theft of seven license application forms from the Bowie mobile station of the Motor Vehicle Administration.
Those forms could easily be duplicated in any kind of counterfeit license producing operations, Johnson said.
On Sept. 25, the administration's College Park office was burglarized and two camera bases containing the photo developer and laminating equipment were stolen. The next night a typewriter was stolen during a break in at the administration's Edgewater office.
The Oct. 17 theft occurred late in the afternoon as the MVA mobile crew was preparing to close for the day at the Bowie library. One examiner and two clerks were on duty and the examiner had left the library lobby briefly. At that point, a group of people walked through the library, making a fair amount of noise and distracting the attention of the two clerks. When the examiner returned a few minutes later, the camera and the validation plate were missing. Officials said they suspect the noise was a deliberate distraction.
Johnson said all the camera units are now chained to their base units and work tables.