PHOENIX - Coupons regaining popularity with savvy shoppers have also been the source of a widespread forgery and counterfeit case, leading officials on a search they call "Operation Super Coupon."
According to the Phoenix Police Department, over 40 of the nation's largest manufacturers have fallen victim, becoming a part of the first case of its kind in the United States.
About four years ago, copies of manufacturer's coupons began to spread around the country from an unknown source, according to police.
These coupons are extremely valuable to consumers, as they offer highly discounted or free items.
The victimized companies and the Coupon Information Corporation asked private investigators to determine the source of the coupons.
The investigators reportedly found several Market Re-entry Points, the most abundant being in Arizona.
One MRP was identified as Savvyshoppersite.com, working as Savvy Shopper. The company is not related to the local consumer magazine.
Police said they seized millions of dollars in counterfeit coupons. The coupons were reportedly printed overseas and sent to Arizona. They were used to get new customers, reward loyal customers and customers unhappy with a product.
They were sold by Marilyn Johnson, 61, Robin Ramirez, 40, and Amiko (Amy) Fountain who are now in police custody. Police said one of the suspects made at least $2 million a year with the operation.
With the income they were making from the sales of the coupons, the suspects bought homes, expensive cars and weapons, according to police.
All were seized in Tuesday's operation.
The case against SavvyShoppersite.com has been assembled and reviewed for prosecution and asset forfeiture, according to police.
Police say that hundreds of millions of dollars in losses from this counterfeit case "goes beyond the imagination."
Doug Miller from the Coupon Information Corporation warned consumers to "Never, ever pay money for coupons."
Miller went on to say that nearly all standard manufacturer's coupons sold on eBay are counterfeit.
If customers try to redeem the coupons as of today, they will be arrested as well, police said.