Travis Ayers, 19,
20 Months In
BY BILL JONES
Three young Greene County men, who had pleaded guilty last October to counterfeiting charges, were sentenced in U.S. District Court here on Monday.
Court records indicate that the alleged leader of the group, Travis J. Ayers, 19, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer to 20 months in federal prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.
Ayers also was ordered to make restitution to the victims who received the counterfeit money he passed and to complete 150 hours of community service.
Also sentenced on Tuesday afternoon were two of Ayers' three co-defendants.
Court records indicated that Richard Johnson and Mark King were sentenced to spend five years on federal probation for their roles in the counterfeiting incident.
Johnson and King also were ordered to complete 150 hours of community service and to pay shares of the restitution owed to those who received the counterfeit money they helped to produce in 2008.
During Ayers' Monday afternoon sentencing hearing, co-defendant King testified that Ayers had made threats against him in connection with the case.
A sentencing hearing for a fourth defendant, Joshua Johnson, was continued until March 30.
SEEKS AFGHANISTAN DUTY
Ayers had asked U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer in a letter written earlier this month to be allowed to go to Afghanistan with his National Guard unit rather than be sentenced to prison.
In the letter, Ayers wrote, in part, "I have brought shame to my country, my family and myself. I am sorry."
He also noted that his National Guard company's first sergeant had visited him in jail while he was awaiting sentencing and had said he wished that Ayers could accompany his unit on a 15-month deployment to Afghanistan.
"Is there any way I can save my career with the Army and go overseas with my platoon for your 15-month tour of duty in March?" Ayers asked in the letter. "I just want to do my military job and try to make up for the thing(s) I have done. I would make everyone proud of me again."
The plea agreement in his case states that on July 15, 2008, Ayers purchase a Canon MX310 "all-in-one" color scanner-copier at the Staples office supply store in Greeneville.
On the same day, Ayers, Richard B. Johnson, Joshua B. Johnson and Mark A. King purchased cotton content resume paper at the Walmart, according to the plea agreement.
The scanner-copier and resume paper were then taken to a Peppermint Lane mobile home in Greene County that was then occupied by King, the plea agreement states.
"At that location, Ayers and the other co-defendants used the scanner-copier and resume paper to produce $20- and $100-denomination counterfeit Federal Reserve notes, including a stack of $100 notes" the plea agreement in Ayers' case said.
The plea agreement said federal prosecutors could present evidence that the counterfeit bills were "distributed to various people and businesses" here.
During the week of July 15-20, 2008, the plea agreement said, Ayers, Joshua B. Johnson and Richard B. Johnson moved the scanner-copier to a residence on Holley Creek Road.
There, the plea agreement said, Ayers, Richard B. Johnson and Joshua B. Johnson produced additional $20 and $100 counterfeit federal reserve notes. Those counterfeit notes also were distributed to individuals and businesses locally, the plea agreement said.
On July 20, 2008, Ayers, Joshua B. Johnson and Richard B. Johnson took the scanner-copier back to Staples and requested a refund, which Ayers received, according to the plea agreement.
"The defendant's case involves a group of four young men counterfeiting jointly and individually approximately $4,000.00 worth of Federal Reserve notes resulting in a loss to various victims in the amount of $985," Douglas Payne, Travis Ayers' defense attorney, wrote in a sentencing memorandum to the court. "The crime involved a vary limited amount of time and had a relatively small impact on any given victim."
Payne also wrote that "one of the more interesting aspects of this case" was that the copier used in the counterfeiting was returned to Staples for a refund and a significant portion of the money counterfeited was burned.
"What can be said of this behavior is that there was no settled purpose to conduct a long-term criminal spree," Payne wrote in his sentencing memorandum. "It is more attuned to an aberration in the character of this defendant.
Payne also told the court in the sentencing memo that Travis Ayers had "zero criminal history points" before his arrest on a counterfeiting charge.
"A reading of the letters from those who have known him the longest point to a young man of good moral character who has gone astray from his upbringing but who has the basis for rehabilitation," Payne wrote. "He can, and will, be a productive citizen in the future."
The memo also indicated that Travis Ayers "enjoys substantial family support" and was a member of a Tennessee Army National Guard that was set for deployment at the time of his arrest.
"By all accounts, he has done well in the military and, but for this, could have looked forward to a successful career," Payne wrote.
Payne had asked the court to impose no more than an 18-month prison sentence on Ayers. He also had asked the court to recommend that Ayers be allowed to serve his prison sentence at a federal prison in Manchester, Ky.