Some people take couponing to the extreme, obsessively clipping ads and stockpiling whatever happens to be on sale that week. Now, three Phoenix women have been accused of taking extreme couponing too far.
On Tuesday, Phoenix police took Robin Ramirez, Marilyn Johnson, and Amiko Fountain into custody on accusations that the women were running a counterfeit coupon ring, AZfamily.com. According to authorities, the case is the "first of its kind" in the United States.
About 4 years ago, extremely high quality copies of manufacturer’s coupons began to surface around the country. More than 40 of the country’s biggest manufacturers fell victim to the fake coupons.
The companies, along with the Coupon Information Corporation, hired private investigators to determine the source of the counterfeit coupons. Investigators found that majority of the fake coupons were being used in Arizona. The coupons were also being sold on a website. However, investigators believe that the counterfeit coupon ring stretches overseas as well.
“This is an international investigation because we know that the coupons we’re talking about were not manufactured here in the United States but they were shipped here and then distributed via the Internet and other media outlets,” Phoenix police Officer James Holmes said.
Police raided several Phoenix homes, seizing boxes of coupons, guns, vehicles, and other property. The three suspects may be charged with use and distribution of items bearing counterfeit marks. Under Arizona’s criminal code, possessing, using, creating, or distributing items that bear a counterfeit copyright or trademark can be charged with counterfeit marks violations. Possessing 100 to 1,000 items bearing counterfeit marks is a class 6 felony. Possessing over 1,000 items is a class 5 felony.
According to authorities, the counterfeit coupon scheme may have cost companies anywhere from $400 to $600 million in losses.
- PD: 3 Women Arrested in Phoenix Counterfeit Coupon Case (CBS News)
- Fraud (FindLaw)
- Trademark Basics (FindLaw)
- Organized Crime (FindLaw’s LawBrain)