Update The spirit of Barney Fife is alive and well in small-town America, but that will hardly amuse the three men recently accused of terrorist crimes in the redneck backwater of Caro, Michigan.
Adham Abdelhamid Othman, Louai Abdelhamied Othman, and Maruan Awad Muhareb, who were rumbled by a watchful Wal-Mart clerk when they bought 80 pre-paid TracFones, no longer stand accused of plotting to blow up the Mackinac Bridge, but are now, incredibly, facing counterfeiting charges instead.
The men were discovered with nearly a thousand pre-paid phones, and a few pictures of the bridge, leading local authorities to suspect a dastardly, mass-casualty plot in which the phones would serve as detonators. For their part, the men claimed that they were planning to resell the phones at a profit to a merchant in Texas.
Now that it's become clear that the terror plot was not to be, Assistant US Attorney Janet Parker is planning to help the Caro police save face by bringing charges of trafficking in counterfeit goods and money laundering. It would not look good for the men to skate free, after all that crying wolf about al-Qaeda mayhem.
The counterfeit charge likely stems from modifications the men are alleged to have been making to unlock the phones, enabling them to be used on competing networks. Presumably, they would then cease to be "authentic" (however much improved). Although, when last we checked, it was still legal to buy a car, make performance modifications, and sell it at a profit. The money laundering charge appears to be even more of a stretch.
Perhaps in a few weeks' time the charges will be lowered again, to the more realistic level of "creating a situation likely to encourage police officials to make fools of themselves". ®