The weathered white van marked "Rosa Photo" has been a fixture for years on Callowhill Street, dispensing passport photos and other documents near the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building on 16th Street.
Yesterday, capping an investigation into fake IDs, Philadelphia police shut Rosa Photo down.
Major Crimes Unit supervisor Lt. Ed Zachwieja said four employees of the company were arrested, and two vehicles (including the van) were impounded in the bust, which netted copies of 1,000 cards that appeared to be fraudulent IDs.
Pending fingerprint identifications, he declined to immediately release the suspects' names or further details of the undercover investigation.
The cards, imprinted with the logos of Pennsylvania and other states, "look like drivers' licenses" but are useless as legitimate identity documents, Zachwieja said.
To the untrained eye, or a harried cashier seeking a form of picture ID to accompany a customer's bank check, however, the fake cards can look legitimate.
Relatively sophisticated bar-code technology is used to manufacture the cards, Zachwieja said. Then, if doctored with false birth dates, they can be used in nightclubs and other venues where swipe-and-go card-readers are sometimes used to scan for underage patrons, he said.
Pending review by the district attorney's office, Zachwieja said, the suspects are expected to be charged with "unlawful use of a computer; tampering with government records; tampering with identification documents; conspiracy," and other charges.
From his van across the street from where Rosa Photo was parked, competitor Joseph Doe of Wulu Photo said he knew nothing about the genesis of the police action.