Cache Overwhelms Officers,
Setting Record For Oneonta
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – In an average ID check at a downtown Oneonta bar, city police officers might discover “20 or so” fake IDs in all, according to Chief Douglas Brenner.
On Friday, Nov. 15, they 10 times that: 226 fake and altered IDs in a check at the Sip & Sail Tavern, 88 Water St.
“That’s not even all of them,” said Brenner. “Due to time constraints, we wrote 138 tickets and turned the rest over to the DMV; they’ll help us track down the others to issue tickets.”
After receiving tips that “several” local bars were serving underage drinkers, Brenner put together a joint effort between the police, the state Liquor Authority and the county Sheriff’s Department to spend the evening checking that Center City bars were obeying state law.
“We go in, tell the bartender to turn off the music and turn on the lights, then we ask to see everyone’s identification,” said Brenner. “We had officers outside and at all the exits, and the sheriffs would escort a few out at a time to meet with officers and get ticketed.”
But, it turned out, nearly all of the bar’s patrons were carrying fake IDs – some had two or three – and after three hours, the officers ran out of paper to print the tickets on, and called it a night.
“We didn’t even get to any other bars,” said Brenner. “It’s one thing to pick up a person here or there, but we haven’t even sifted through all the tickets yet.”
It’s by far the biggest raid to date.
Second biggest was in February 2016, a double raid of Legends Filling Station and Choice Ultra Lounge.
At Choice Ultra Lounge, 70 of 84 patrons were under 21. At Legends, state investigators found 13 violations, including 11 underage sales.
Though fake IDs are getting more and more sophisticated, bars are required to monitor patrons and only serve customers of legal age, said Brenner.
“Bars have ways of keeping on top of fake IDs,” he said. “They have scanners and devices, they need to be a little more conscientious. The bar can get in trouble, not to mention that someone who is drinking underage might get themselves into a bad situation.”
Choice Ultra Lounge had their license suspended and has remained shuttered; Legends had their license suspended for two weeks until a hearing, then paid a fine and re-opened.
The Sip & Sail’s liquor license is held by Adrian Origoni. An investigation by the state Liquor Authority is ongoing, and according to spokesperson Bill Crowley, charges – including suspension or revocation – may be pending.
Those in possession of a fake ID can be hit with a fine from the courts or have their license revoked by the DMV, Brenner said. “It fits the definition of possession of a forged instrument, which is a felony,” he said. “But we usually write it up as a traffic infraction. It’s easier on an 18- or 19-year-old who’s just trying to have some fun.”
But Brenner hopes that this will be a wake-up call to anyone who is thinking about using a fake ID.
“I want students to understand the risks,” he said. “It’s not just unlawful, but you are sending your real name, your real address, your real birth day and month, to someone overseas. It’s not a smart idea to put that information out there. It could lead to ID theft.”