Updated Jul 12, 2012 - 11:10 am
Counterfeit coupon ring busted up in Arizona
Three women have been arrested in Phoenix in connection with the nation's first counterfeit coupon ring.
In a press conference, police said a search warrant served at 36406 North 29th Avenue yielded 22 guns and high- quality fraudulent coupons from overseas worth about $25 million.
Three women were arrested in connection with the crime: 40-year-old Robin Ramirez, the alleged ringleader, 54- year-old Marilyn Johnson, an alleged assistant and 42- year-old Amiko "Amy" Fountain, an alleged assistant and packager.
The coupons were sold via savvyshoppersite.com, which has no connection to the local coupon mailer. Interested shoppers had to be referred or invited to use the site, where they could purchase the fraudulent coupons.
The scam focused on the production of manufacturer's coupons, because they offer either a free item or a significant reduction in the item's cost.
"These aren't 50-cents-off coupons, these are free item coupons," said Phoenix Police Sgt. David Lake. "Some of them, like for Iams, you get this coupon from [Ramirez] for $10 or $20 and you can get up to a $70 item -- walk out out of the store with a $70 bag of dog food. If you can get an unlimited number of those, think of how this grows.
The counterfeit ring was allegedly using 12 different bank and money accounts, one of which made about $2 million in a single year.
"We took [Ramirez's] shipping as far back as 2007 and can see her doing it there," said Lake.
Over 40 of the nation's largest manufacturers reported false coupons being used.
The investigation was conducted by the Phoenix Police Department in cooperation with the Coupon Information Corporation and FBI Internet Crimes Unit.
Shoppers using coupons purchased from the site could be arrested if they attempt to use them, police said.
Sandra Haros , Reporter