When David Alexander Post and a group of his fellow South Lakes High School seniors used a handful of fake $20 bills at Reston fast food restaurants in May 2003, they were introducing counterfeit currency that would be used over the next year at least 60 times throughout the United States.
A list produced by a U.S. Secret Service database illustrated the times, dates and locations of each known use of the counterfeit $20 bills that occurred from May 19, 2003 through last Thursday. The list was entered into evidence Friday at Post's sentencing hearing at the federal courthouse in Alexandria.
"What I did was wrong. I was a young immature high school student when I did this," said Post, now 19 years old. "It was the biggest mistake of my life."
Post pleaded guilty to charges last February of conspiring to print $4,000 in fake $20 bills, using a computer scanner and ink printer. The teens intended to use the bogus money to buy drugs at a West Virginia rock concert. On Friday, he was sentenced to four months in federal prison, two years probation and 100 hours of community service. He will also be confined to his home for four months of his supervised release.
Another former South Lakes High School graduate was also sentenced in the case on Friday in Fairfax County Circuit Court. John Adam Blake, 19, was sentenced to two years and six months in jail, all of which was suspended.
Two other Reston teens had already been sentenced for felony charges in federal court. Joseph Lawrence Bleich, 19, and Doug McLaughlin-Williams, 19, were both sentenced to two years supervised probation for their roles in the case.
William Chandler Greene, 19, was sentenced in Fairfax County Circuit Court to 12 months in jail, though on misdemeanor charges.
Post was given a harsher sentence under federal sentencing guidelines because he had not fully cooperated with the government and had failed a lie detector test.
"That's the price you pay," said U.S. Judge James C. Cacheris, as he sentenced Post. "This is a serious crime. Your passing of counterfeit currency cannot be taken lightly."
POST AVOIDED an even longer jail sentence at his sentencing hearing Friday because the judge decided the counterfeit bills would not stand up to minimal scrutiny, a test which carries a greater penalty under federal sentencing guidelines.
To prove that the burden of minimal scrutiny is quite low, prosecutors introduced four obviously fake bills that had successfully been used in transactions. One was a counterfeit $20 with George Washington's picture printed on it, rather than Andrew Jackson's. Another was a simple photocopy of a $20 bill on white paper.
James Clark, Post's attorney, argued that the teenagers used the fake $20 bills at Reston drive-through restaurants, where recent immigrants would be less likely to recognize fake currency. If the counterfeit notes had withstood minimal scrutiny, they could have used the money anywhere, he said.
Also, Clark said, that the teenagers attempted to use the fake money to purchase drugs at a concert, after dark in a clandestine situation, suggests that they did not believe the bills were high enough quality to pass muster.
Cacheris ruled the counterfeit bills Post used last May would not withstand minimal scrutiny by someone familiar with U.S. currency. The obviously fake notes the prosecution entered into evidence showed that people take counterfeit bills unwittingly fairly frequently, he said.
"This is so obviously counterfeit that they would not be accepted or stand up to minimal scrutiny in a normal environment," Cacheris said, holding up a plastic-encased fake $20 bill.
POST AND BLAKE'S sentencing hearings last Friday marked the end of the counterfeiting case, which has drawn attention since U.S. Secret Service agents began investigating the teenagers in June, 2003, after fake $20 bills began turning up at the Reston Silver Diner, a slew of fast food restaurants and at a 7-Eleven.
A month later, three of the teenagers — Post, Bleich and their classmate Trevor Harvey — were charged with witness tampering after they fought Greene at a party. Greene, who had bought several fake $20 bills from Post and Bleich, had previously agreed to cooperate with the investigation.
The witness tampering charges were ultimately dropped because prosecutors could not prove who started the fight or what the motivation was.
The investigation continued and last February, Post and Bleich pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charges, with the other three defendants following suit.
"This case has a long and tortured history," Clark said.