Couple charged in fake ID scheme
Police: Lehigh County man got cash in 3 states, woman helped.
March 30, 2004By Genevieve Marshall Of The Morning Call
A Lehigh County couple who were temporarily living in a Hanover Township hotel have been charged in an alleged scheme to make counterfeit driver’s licenses and identification cards and use them to cash fake payroll and trucking company expense checks.
Michael John Piskanin Jr., 59, used the names of real people and businesses to produce the counterfeit IDs and checks and cash them in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York, state police at Bethlehem said. Mildred Berrios, 33, is accused of aiding him.
State police have filed a long list of charges against Piskanin. Berrios, his girlfriend of two years, faces some of the same charges.
Piskanin has been held in Northampton County Prison under $10,000 bail on an unrelated charge since March 10. Berrios was committed to Lehigh County Prison under $50,000 bail Friday.
Police said they don’t know yet how much the suspects stole because they are still identifying counterfeit checks, some dating to June 2000. Berrios is thought to have gotten involved within the past two years.
Piskanin’s arrest record in Pennsylvania includes charges of embezzlement, larceny, theft by deception and writing bad checks, according to state police. scannable fake ids He has used more than 10 aliases.
The counterfeiting investigation began about three weeks ago when Colonial Regional police arrested Piskanin in the parking lot of the Microtel Inn on a warrant for criminal mischief. Officers found 54 fake driver’s licenses and identification cards on him, as well as 13 counterfeit bank checks. He was also carrying a miniature personal computer, Colonial Regional police said.
State police were brought in to continue the investigation.
It took Piskanin’s arrest to uncover the scheme because the suspects rarely used the same name or business more than twice to avoid the suspicion of clerks at truck stops and grocery stores, where they cashed most of their counterfeit payroll checks, state police said.
The scheme worked in this way, according to police:
The suspects would pick a city and create a counterfeit payroll check and pick out a business, hospital or government agency in that city to list as the account holder on the check.
They would then pick the name and address of a person living in that area and put Piskanin’s picture on a fake driver’s license or state identification card.
The suspects also created expense checks and commercial driver’s licenses used by truck drivers. They would buy something small with the check and pocket the rest of the money.
State police said many trucking companies give drivers a blank check with a limit to use on long runs.
In one instance detailed in the arrest affidavit, Piskanin is accused of using a fake Pennsylvania commercial driver’s license at Berger’s Market in Pine Grove Township, Schuylkill County, to buy a carton of cigarettes and cash a $494.48 payroll check from War Hunt Trucking Inc. The check was made payable to “Jeff Balmer.”
Police found a receipt detailing the transaction in a hotel room rented by Piskanin, and a fake War Hunt payroll check and counterfeit commercial driver’s license for “Jeff Balmer” on Piskanin when he was arrested earlier this month.
Colonial Regional police arrested Piskanin on March 10 in the parking lot of the Microtel Inn, 1880 Steelstone Road, Hanover Township, filltrustid Lehigh County, on charges related to his stay at the Holiday Inn, where he allegedly caused $2,000 damage to his room.
According to the affidavit filed March 18 in District Justice Carl Balliet’s office in Allentown:
Piskanin began renting Room 136 of the Microtel Inn on Feb. 10 under the alias Robert Sykes of Bristol, Tenn. He paid cash for it until his arrest.
After Piskanin was taken into custody, police went to the room and spoke with a woman who identified herself as Mildred Berrios. She told police she was Piskanin’s girlfriend and had shared the room with him for several weeks, since fire destroyed their apartment in Catasauqua.
Police searched the room and found 10 more counterfeit identification cards bearing Piskanin’s photograph and 55 counterfeit bank checks.
Two of the programs installed on the computer provided access to a database of information about more than 13 million businesses and 220 million people, including names, addresses and telephone numbers. Police also found programs for check writing, photography, navigation and mapping.
In the car, police found hundreds of counterfeit checks identifying trucking companies and other businesses as the account holders.
Both Piskanin and Berrios are charged with conspiracy, involvement in a corrupt organization, receiving stolen property and criminal use of a communication facility.
In addition, Piskanin is charged with identity theft, tampering with public records, forgery, buy fake ids theft by deception and unlawful use of a computer.