Operation Wild Stallion: Sophisticated fake IDs problem in Wellington

Nearly three months into a crackdown on driving under the influence and underage drinking in Wellington, Operation Wild Stallion has netted 35 DUI arrests.

But while officials say publicity of the operation has made residents more cautious, high-quality fake IDs continue to challenge bar and restaurant owners, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office says.

RELATED: To curb Wellington drunk driving, PBSO operation nets 28 DUI arrests

The push for more solutions comes in in the wake of a deadly, late-night Nov. 25 crash where 19-year-old Dana McWilliams lost control of her car on southbound South Shore Boulevard between Pierson and Lake Worth Roads. McWilliams and her front-seat passenger, 21-year-old Christian Kennedy, were killed. Elaine O’Halloran, the back-seat passenger, was critically injured.

On Thursday, representatives from establishments that serve alcohol such as The Grille, Flanigan’s, the Player’s Club, Buffalo Wild Wings and Wellington Trace Tavern talked with PBSO and village staff on the initiative.

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PBSO deputies continue to make DUI arrests, although those are “not as easy to come by as they were toward the beginning of the initiative,” PBSO Capt. Rolando Silva said. Deputies are also undercover at bars and convenience stores looking for underage drinkers.

All agreed fake IDs are a constant issue with some so convincing they even thwart electronic scanners.

RELATED: Dressage program carries legacy of promising young equestrian killed in crash

Village Manager Paul Schofield said he was with PBSO deputies about two weeks ago at one restaurant where nine fake IDs were collected.

“Some of those are very clearly forgeries or fakes … but some of them are really, really very good,” he said.

Players Club owner Neil Hirsch said it’s a “difficult problem” his staff faces. “These IDs have become so sophisticated that you cannot tell the difference,” he said.

His solution is to ask for a second form of photo identification, which usually turns the would-be drinker away.

RELATED: Operation Wild Stallion targets DUIs, underage drinking in Wellington

Schofield said he was surprised that one person produced two identical fake IDs. “We looked at them and they looked like they’re supposed to look, and when you run them through the scanners, they read the information they’re supposed to read,” he said.

Schofield said the group will have another discussion next month as the equestrian season comes to a close. Officials then will follow-up with bar and restaurant owners before next season.

“Overall, I do think we have been fairly successful,” Schofield said. “I do want to thank you all for working hard on that.”

RELATED: Wellington bar owners, educators, officials call for fake ID crackdown, more education

All three involved in the Nov. 25 crash were rising stars in Wellington’s equestrian scene, prompting the community to look for solutions. Olympian and U.S. Equestrian Team coach Robert Dover worked with fellow Wellington trainer Tom Wright to expand the Get Home Safe program, which offers free rides home from some Wellington bars.

Kennedy’s death also has spurred the launch of two dressage scholarships: Dover’s Christian Kennedy Future Stars Scholarship, and the Unicorn Scholarship through Lendon Gray’s Dressage4Kids program.

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