On February 25th, 2013 Robin Ramirez, the last of the defendants of the coupon counterfeiting enterprise brought to light in a July, 2012 Phoenix Police investigation, plead guilty to a charge of counterfeiting as part of a plea deal that could carry a sentence of 9 months to two years and supervised probation. Ms. Ramirez would also be required to pay some form of restitution to victims of the crime.
In November, 2012 Amiko Fountain and Marilyn Johnson each plead guilty to a single charge of counterfeiting. Each of these defendants faces up to 18th months in jail.
This counterfeiting enterprise had a monumental effect on our citizens and the business world alike. As a result of these arrests, the Phoenix Police Department has received inquiries from citizens and law enforcement agencies across the country concerning the legality of coupons received via the Internet. We continue to caution our citizens about how they obtain and use manufacturer’s coupons; manufacturer’s coupons are never sold and should never be purchased via any medium.
Background (from July, 2012)
Over 40 of the Nation’s largest manufacturers have fallen victim to a new kind of forgery/counterfeiting. These companies use manufacturer’s coupons to reward loyal customers, satisfy unhappy ones and to interest new ones through the use of manufacturer’s coupons. Manufacturer’s coupons are unlike most others because they offer a free item to the consumer or a significant reduction in cost. For coupon users these are called “high value” coupons and they are primarily the same as cash. Approximately 4 years ago extremely high quality copies of manufacturer’s coupons began to surface in the United States from an unknown source. The victim companies, in conjunction with the Coupon Information Corporation (CIC) hired private investigators to find where the coupons were being sold in the United States. These investigators found several Market Re-entry Points (MRP’s) with the most prolific being located here in Arizona. That MRP was operating as a website, Savvyshoppersite.com doing business as Savvy Shopper, but in no way related to our local consumer magazine. The manufacturers and the CIC, after numerous failed attempts to enlist the aid of several different law enforcement agencies, turned to the Phoenix Police and Sgt. David Lake for assistance. Working in conjunction with the private sector, members of the FBI Internet crimes unit and internal resources, the case against SavvyShoppersite.com has been assembled and reviewed by county attorneys for prosecution and asset forfeiture. This case is the first of its kind in the United States. The scope of the investigation and the economic impact, tens of millions of dollars in losses, goes beyond the imagination without detailed explanation.
Sentencing is scheduled for late March, early April.