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Two Plead Guilty of Counterfeiting

Two South Lakes grads plead guilty to counterfeiting in federal court; three remain to be prosecuted in Fairfax General District Court.

Before throwing out federal charges of retaliating against a witness late last September, United States Magistrate Judge Barry R. Poretz looked at Reston defendants Joseph Lawrence Bleich, 19, David Alexander Post, 19, John Adam Blake, 18, and Trevor Harvey, 18, to express his disappointment.

"What was once a nice friendly group, all I can say is: sad, sad, sad," the United States District Court judge said.

After the court proceedings in Alexandria, Bleich, embraced his former South Lakes classmate and friend, Danny Penaranda, who was key witness for the defense. "It's not over," Bleich said, referring to the potential for future federal counterfeit charges against him.

It wasn't.

BLEICH AND POST pleaded guilty this month in federal court.

Bleich pleaded guilty on Thursday, Feb. 5, to conspiracy to counterfeit securities and obligations of the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code. Bleich, a freshman at James Madison University, will be sentenced before U.S. District Court Judge James C. Cacheris on May 14.

Post, a freshman at the University of Richmond, pleaded guilty last Wednesday, Feb. 11 to the same charge. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 4 before Judge Cacheris.

The maximum penalties for the offense are five years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, full restitution, a special assessment and three years of supervised release.

"Others may be tempted to use today's sophisticated technology to run their own version of U.S. Mint," said U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty, in a press statement. "They should be advised counterfeiting is a serious crime and we will prosecute anyone who violates the law in this manner."

Bleich and Post were prosecuted in federal court because they were the ones who actually manufactured the money, said Sam Dibbley, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Alexandria.

Bleich played basketball and football at South Lakes. "Joe is just a great kid," said Wendell Byrd, Bleich's former basketball coach at South Lakes. "He was a model student, in and out of, the classroom. He was a hardworking athlete and kept a high average academically."

THREE OTHER South Lakes graduates still face counterfeit charges. Blake, William Chandler Greene, 18, and Douglas McLaughlin-Williams, 19, were all arrested on Dec. 22-23, 2003 in Fairfax. They face charges of forging coin and bank notes, a Class 4 felony, in Fairfax County General District Court. Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 3.

McLaughlin-Williams helped lead South Lakes to the Virginia State basketball championship last March. McLaughlin-Williams, a 6-foot-7 forward, had earned a basketball scholarship to Boston University, but Boston University officials confirmed that he was released from his scholarship in August and he never enrolled at the university. He currently plays at The Winchendon School, a private prep school in north-central Massachusetts.