Why fake coupons are better than fake money

The queenpins of the coupon scam:
Amiko Fountain, top;
Robin Ramirez, left; Marilyn Johnson, right

Here's a great fraud where the counterfeiters got many of the benefits of counterfeiting money, but with much less of the risk.

Three women were arrested in Phoenix, Arizona for selling counterfeit coupons.

The fakes were variations of real coupons, altered to either give a huge discount or to say the product was free.

They had the fake coupons printed overseas, then shipped to themselves, where they resold the coupons for less than their "real" face value.

One of the sites they used to sell the fakes was "savvyshoppersite.com", which was worded to sound similar to the legitimate "Savvy Shopper" magazine.

After an eight-week undercover operation, police raided the women's homes, arresting them and seizing $40 million in bogus coupons.

The women may have made many millions from their scheme.

Why was this less risky than making counterfeit currency?
  • Instead of criminal currency counterfeiters, you work with dodgy foreign printers to print your fake coupons.
  • You can order the coupons in lower quantities than ordering a huge batch of counterfeit bills.
  • You don't have to deal with a retailer directly and get caught; if someone complains that their coupon didn't work, say sorry and refund their money.
  • You can openly sell your product to shoppers looking for deals. You can't do that with fake $100 bills.
  • With all the different types of coupons you sell, it's harder for authorities to investigate.
  • The U. S. Secret Service (which investigates money counterfeiting) doesn't try to catch you. (Different sources say different things - the Secret Service used to investigate food coupon fraud, but I haven't found an official source saying they still investigate it.)
  • Finally, when you get caught, the penalties are less severe.
- The $40 Million Counterfeit Coupon Caper, Time magazine>>
- Phoenix police arrest 3 women in fake coupon ring, AzCentral.com>>

8 comments:

  1. Several different Federal Law Enforcement Agencies have are authorized to investigate this type of fraud, including, but not limited to: The US Secret Service, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, The US Postal Inspection Service, The Internal Revenue Service.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous:

    I know the Secret Service investigates counterfeit money fraud. Would they also go after coupon fraud?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. Coupons are a financial instrument.

      Delete
    2. I changed the post. Do you know an official source that says they still go after coupon fraud? Even the Secret Service site is ambiguous on this point.

      Delete
  3. Your last point - "the penalties are less severe" - is exactly right. Check out today's latest counterfeit coupon story here:
    http://couponsinthenews.com/2012/08/01/how-to-make-coupons-and-get-busted-for-it/
    Companies have lost nearly a million dollars, but the counterfeiter could get a couple of years max in prison.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Update; two of the three have entered guilty pleas.

    ReplyDelete
  5. New Counterfeit Coupon Case:

    The Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations and Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a joint investigation into a counterfeit coupon organization. This joint investigation lasted five months and concluded when the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations arrested three men and a woman; Samir Muhana, age 29 of Philadelphia, Hayat Abuali, age 26 of Philadelphia, Nimir Raja, age 34 of Philadelphia and Wayne Wiggins Jr., age 20 of Philadelphia.
    Muhana is charged with Organized Retail Theft (Felony 2), Criminal Conspiracy to Commit Organized Retail Theft (Felony 2), Criminal Solicitation to commit Organized Retail Theft and Tampering with Records or Identification (Misdemeanor 1).
    Abuali is charged with Criminal Conspiracy to commit Theft by Deception (Misdemeanor 3), Theft by Deception (Misdemeanor 3) and Retail Theft (Summary).
    Raja is charged with Criminal Conspiracy to commit Theft by Deception (Misdemeanor 1), Criminal Attempt to Commit Theft by Deception (misdemeanor 1) and Criminal Attempt to Commit Retail Theft (misdemeanor 1).
    Wiggins is Charged with Criminal Conspiracy to commit Theft by Deception (Misdemeanor 1), Criminal Attempt to commit Retail Theft and Criminal Attempt to commit theft By Deception (Misdemeanor 1).
    All four defendants were arraigned in Bucks County by Magisterial District Justice (MDJ) C. Robert Roth. MDJ Roth set bail for Abuali, Raja and Wiggins at 10% of $25,000 which they failed to post and were remanded to the Bucks County Correctional Facility. MDJ Roth set Muhana’s bail at 10% of $100,000 which he failed to post and was remanded to the Bucks County Correctional Facility.
    This organization would utilize fraudulent manufactures coupons to purchase merchandise from retail stores and pay a small percentage of the retail price. Then this merchandise would be sold to bodega stores in Philadelphia County for profit. This organization would target specific merchandise that included baby formula, diapers, Red Bull energy drinks, cooking oil, coffee and Tide laundry detergent. This type of scam costs corporations millions of dollars each year which in return causes higher prices for the consumer.


    More to Come.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Two arrests for counterfeit coupons in Michigan were reported by Patch in late Feb. 2013

    ReplyDelete

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