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Secret Service Investigates

Three SLHS students suspected of making and using counterfeit money at local restaurant.

The United States Secret Service is investigating three South Lakes High School students and one former student under suspicion of making and using counterfeit money in and around the Reston area last month.

"We did have an incident at the school, but we have not made any charges," said Capt. Michael Vencak, captain of the Fairfax County Police Reston Substation. "Any case involving currency fraud, we automatically pass over to the U.S. Secret Service. They are now actively working the case."

The bills in question were passed on June 10, around 11:30 a.m., at a local Reston restaurant, said Lt. Pat Finch, of the Fairfax County Police Department.

The Secret Service, which is responsible for all investigations involving the counterfeiting of United States currency and securities, did confirm that it was investigating the case, but declined to elaborate on the details of the incidents. "We are currently investigating the case and no charges have been brought, either local or federal," said Craig Benedetto, of the Washington field office of the Secret Service. "The investigation is ongoing to see if there are more players in this thing."

Because no charges have yet been filed, Benedetto said he could not release names of the students allegedly involved. The head of the Washington field office did express optimism with the investigation. "We do anticipate things coming to fruition with this in the future," Benedetto said.

Benedetto declined to comment further saying that he did not want to "jeopardize the case."

The three current South Lakes students are all minors, according to police. Vencak said that the South Lakes School Resource Officer (SRO) reported that counterfeit money had been used at an unspecified location in the school. The suspects were not making the fake money at the school, Vencak said.

"Basically, they were using a scanner to copy the money and showed up in one of the places in the school and it came back from the bank," the captain said. "It was at that point when the SRO got involved and they were able to track it down and trace it to the specific students.

Citing the "ease and speed" of modern photographic and printing equipment, counterfeiting is on the rise, according to the Secret Service's Web site. The suspects reportedly purchased their own equipment, Vencak said. "It doesn't require high-tech, just a good scanner and printer and unfortunately you can fool most people," he added.

Vencak said most stores or restaurants should be using a special type of magic marker that can readily identify counterfeit bills.