Airman gets 4 months for forging $240
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — An airman who made $240 in counterfeit U.S. currency on his home computer and spent it on base was sentenced to four months in jail at a special court-martial Tuesday.
Senior Airman Joseph L. Williams, 25, of the 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron pleaded guilty to two charges under General Article 134, which allows servicemembers to be prosecuted for crimes, such as counterfeiting, that violate federal law.
Williams also was sentenced to a fine of $220 per month for four months and a reduction in rank to airman first class.
The maximum sentence Williams could have received was one year of confinement, forfeiture of two-thirds of his pay and a reduction in rank to airman basic.
“Honestly, sir, it was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done,” Williams told military judge Col. Steven Hatfield after pleading guilty.
A civilian likely would be punished with probation for a similar offense in the United States, defense counsel Capt. Aaron Lake said while asking for leniency during the sentencing hearing.
However, Williams acknowledged that servicemembers are held to a higher standard, even as he asked for a lesser sentence than the six months of confinement requested by the prosecution.
Whether Williams will be dishonorably discharged will be decided at a later date. Williams and his court-appointed lawyer can apply for clemency after the trial record is authenticated, which should take about 20 days.
Williams began spending the money by inserting four fake $20 bills into a wad of real money when paying for his auto insurance in the Kadena USO building.
He then spent two fake $20 bills at two base gas stations, and two fake $10 bills at the 24-hour Kadena shoppette on two occasions. He also spent some of the counterfeit money at the Rocker NCO Club.
Finally, he gave his supervisor a fake $50 bill in exchange for 5,000 yen.
After receiving a tip, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations called Williams on Nov. 18.
He confessed to the counterfeiting scheme and took multiple polygraph tests to confirm that he had not made any additional counterfeit bills.
Williams said he made the money using a home computer, scanner, printer and the program Paint Shop Pro, a shareware program readily available on the Internet.
Williams’ actions reflect a rising trend among “home counterfeiters” in the United States.
Less than 1 percent of all counterfeit bills in the United States in 1995 were digital forgeries, like those made on a personal computer, according to the Treasury Department. But by 2004, digital forgeries represented 40 percent of all U.S. counterfeit bills.