A widespread counterfeiting and forgery operation linked to a Phoenix home has led to the arrests of three women and the seizure of $25 million in fake coupons, Phoenix police said.
More than 40 of the nation's largest manufacturers were victimized in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the U.S.
Phoenix police culminated an eight-week investigation by serving search warrants at three Valley-area homes Tuesday.
Those arrested were identified as the alleged leader of the operation, 40-year-old Robin Ramirez, and her two helpers, Amiko Fountain, 42, and Marilyn Johnson, 54. Each were booked into jail on charges of illegal control of an enterprise, forgery, counterfeiting, fraudulent schemes and artifices and trafficking in stolen property.
The residents in the home were forging coupons that offer customers free or highly discounted items, said Officer James Holmes of the Phoenix Police Department. For coupon users, these are called "high value" coupons and they are primarily the same as cash, Holmes said.
Police confiscated $2 million worth of assets that included $240,000 in vehicles, 22 guns, a 40-foot speed boat and other assets. Officers also seized packing material and equipment used to process the coupons.
Holmes said high quality copies of manufacturers' coupons began to surface in the U.S. from an unknown source about four years ago.
"This is a significant fraud," said lead investigator Sgt. David Lake.
"I was contacted by one of the companies who had been asked to look into the source of these coupons by Proctor & Gamble," Lake said.
Lake said the victim companies, along with Coupon Information Corporation, hired private investigators to find where the coupons were being sold and investigators found several in Arizona.
Ramirez is accused of "bringing in these coupons from overseas in large quantities and selling them on her website for 50 percent of face value," Lake said.
The bogus website was selling the phony coupons online for hundreds of dollars, police said. In return, customers would receive coupons valued at two to three times what they spent, Lake said.
"These were free-item coupons," Lake said. "Some of them, like for Iams, you get this coupon from her for $10 and you can get a $70 item. Walk out of the store with a $70 bag of dog food. If you can get an unlimited number of those, think how this grows."
Police said the scope of the investigation and the economic impact - hundreds of millions of dollars in losses - goes beyond imagination.
Ramirez faces charges of controlling and operating an illegal enterprise, forgery, money laundering and counterfeiting.
Stay with cbs5az.com and CBS5 News for updates on this developing story.
Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Friday, May 24 2013 10:51 PM EDT2013-05-25 02:51:03 GMT
Eileen Faucette-Robinson is fed up with the problems; years of problems, from what she says is a result of an apartment complex towering over her backyard."Situations like this where there is a healthMore >>
Eileen Faucette-Robinson is fed up with the problems; years of problems, from what she says is a result of an apartment complex towering over her backyard.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 9:45 PM EDT2013-05-25 01:45:01 GMT
The Georgia-Carolina Council for the Boy Scouts of America voted against allowing gays to join the Boy Scouts. They say they voted against changing the membership standards because 85% of the 2,700 constituentsMore >>
The Georgia-Carolina Council for the Boy Scouts of America voted against allowing gays to join the Boy Scouts.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 8:45 PM EDT2013-05-25 00:45:32 GMT
Mobility Transit Services, the company that runs the Augusta Public Transit, is suing the City of Augusta after they claim their contract was unlawfully terminated. "The Augusta Commission in a meetingMore >>
Mobility Transit Services, the company that runs the Augusta Public Transit, is suing the City of Augusta after they claim their contract was unlawfully terminated.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 10:53 AM EDT2013-05-24 14:53:19 GMT
Ryan David Jones/Source: RCSO
Friends and neighbors now say the Jones Family, Edna, Roosevelt, and Russell, are the victims of a suspected triple homicide in South Augusta.The Richmond County Sheriff's Office has been investigatingMore >>
The Richmond County Sheriff Office has charged Ryan David Jones with 3 counts of Murder and Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Crime.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 8:54 AM EDT2013-05-24 12:54:11 GMT
The Richmond County Coroner's Office has confirmed a bicyclist has been struck and killed on Peach Orchard Road.Robert Donald Holden, Jr, of Hephzibah, was pronounced dead at the scene on the 3500 blockMore >>
The Richmond County Coroner's Office has confirmed a bicyclist has been struck and killed on Peach Orchard Road.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 8:00 AM EDT2013-05-24 12:00:17 GMT
For 12 years Denise Glasford's sister fought in the Army, but died last year on Memorial Day. "Thinking about her and wishing she was still here with us," Glasford said. "It's been a tough year for the family." GlasfordMore >>
Glasford and her niece and nephew are three of dozens of family members paying tribute to soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. Here at Fort Gordon's Warrior Remembrance Memorial Day Ceremony, they're honoring those killed, and remembering those they left behind. Soldiers say the national holiday is much more than a day off from work to barbeque and celebrate.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 11:43 PM EDT2013-05-24 03:43:19 GMT
The Richmond County Sheriff's Office is investigating a shooting at the Cedar Grove Apartments.That's off of Deans Bridge Road.Residents in the area say that two people were shot and taken to the hospital.More >>
The Richmond County Sheriff's Office is investigating a shooting at the Cedar Grove Apartments.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 11:07 PM EDT2013-05-24 03:07:55 GMT
Praying and singing through their grief, dozens of people remembered the lives of Roosevelt, Edna and Russell Jones Thursday evening. "It hit me hard because this was like another family to me," saidMore >>
Praying and singing through their grief, dozens of people remembered the lives of Roosevelt, Edna and Russell Jones Thursday evening.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 10:53 PM EDT2013-05-24 02:53:59 GMT
An Aiken County man is in the hospital after being hit by a car in an alleged domestic dispute.The Aiken County Sheriff's Office received a call just after 7:30pm Thursday evening about a pedestrian beingMore >>
An Aiken County man is in the hospital after being hit by a car in an alleged domestic dispute.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 9:03 PM EDT2013-05-24 01:03:57 GMT
President Obama addressed the nation with the counter-terrorism policy which includes the controversial plan to shut down Guantanamo Bay. FOX54 has the exclusive interview with a former military defenseMore >>
President Obama addressed the nation with the counter-terrorism policy which includes the controversial plan to shut down Guantanamo Bay. FOX54 has the exclusive interview with a former military defense attorney who represented one of the GTMO prisoners. More >>