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NAHA, Okinawa — A 21-year-old Marine was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for three years, Wednesday for counterfeiting Japanese currency.

Pvt. Stephen S. Williams, assigned to the 3rd Materiel Readiness Battalion, 3rd Force Services Support Group on Camp Schwab, showed little emotion as a translator repeated in English Naha District Court Chief Judge Nobuyuki Yokota’s sentence and scolding to “become a better citizen.”

During a previous hearing, Williams admitted to the crime. He said that he created the two fake 10,000-yen bills on a color photocopier at his girlfriend’s home in Gushikawa last June, to minimize his expenses on Okinawa before leaving for Seattle, his next duty station.

He said he wanted to save money so he could fly to his family’s home in North Carolina.

According to testimony at the trial, Williams made two copies of a 10,000-yen bill (about $93) and passed one of them at a Nago gas station on June 24. A suspicious gas attendant reported to police that Williams bought 3,000 yen of gas and received 7,000 yen (about $65) in change.

Okinawa police traced the license number of the car Williams was in to his girlfriend in Gushikawa; he was arrested the next day, June 25, just a day before he was due to be transferred back to the United States, officials said.

“The defendant committed the crime to minimize his expenses,” Yokota said during the sentencing session. “The motive was very nearsighted and there is no reason for the court to lighten the sentence recommended by the prosecutor.

“Circulating fake money could severely harm public confidence in the country’s genuine currency,” he said.

Yokota did, however, suspend the sentence for three years, stating that he took into account Williams’ “deep remorse” and lack of a prior criminal record.

Prosecutors, arguing that Williams’ actions were “skillful, malicious and deliberate,” had demanded a sentence of two years in prison at hard labor.

Williams was released into the custody of the Marine Corps.

In such cases, administrative action, including discharge, can be taken against Marines convicted of felony crimes. A public affairs spokeswoman contacted Wednesday could not confirm whether Williams faced such action.

However, she said, “The Marine Corps takes all crime seriously, and we hold every Marine accountable for their actions.”

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