On July 10, 2012, Phoenix police arrested three women involved in a first-of-its-kind case in the U.S. dubbed "Operation Super Coupon." They seized coupons valued at more than $25 to $30 million dollars from one location in addition to weapons, vehicles, and other property. The coupons, called "high value" coupons, are unlike other average coupons because they offer a free item to shoppers or they offer a significant reduction in the product's cost.
Operation Super Coupon
Approximately four years ago extremely high quality copies of manufacturer coupons from unknown sources began to surface in the U.S. Victimized companies began working with the Coupon Information Corporation (CIC) and later with the Phoenix police and the FBI.
The CIC has estimated the loss to companies during last year alone to be in the tens of millions of dollars. During a Phoenix police press briefing, a local Bar S Foods representative shared that in just the first quarter of 2012 the company estimated their loss to be more than a quarter million dollars. Proctor & Gamble issued a statement that read, in part, "...coupon fraud hurts everyone."
The eight-week investigation into the Savvyshoppersite.com website operation led to the arrest of the three Phoenix women- Robin Ramirez, 40, Amiko "Amy" Fountain, 42, and Marilyn Johnson, 54. All face charges of operating as an illegal enterprise, forgery, counterfeit marks, and fraud schemes.
Ramirez, the primary suspect, also faces charges of money laundering. She is accused of mailing legitimate coupons off to a foreign source to have them counterfeited and reproduced in mass quantities. The forged coupons were primarily sold on eBay and her website, Savvyshoppersite.com.
During the raid investigators uncovered $25 million in forged coupons (click on the image to view a larger image). "That's $25 million worth of counterfeit just sitting around their daily operations on a random day. You have to wonder how much money passed through their business," said Bud Miller, executive director of Coupon Information Corp.
Ironically, on the home page of the Savvyshoppersite.com there is a section called the "Wall of Shame" which was reserved especially for bad check writers, con artists and scammers. The section reads, "Make no mistake, these people have taken items and not paid for them." You have to wonder, if found guilty, if these three women will be adding their own names to the list.
Learn More About Coupon Fraud
Image: Phoenix Police Department