A grand jury indicted two Massachusetts women Tuesday on charges that they organized and operated a counterfeit coupon ring, which resulted in the theft of nearly $27,000 in products, the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office said.
Their efforts could be mistaken for successful “extreme couponing,” but authorities accuse the two Taunton women of passing fraudulent coupons to unsuspecting cashiers, resulting in major discounts.
Jacqueline White, 41, and Crystal Travis, 40, each face charges of larceny by false pretense by single scheme and larceny to induce parting with personal property. White also faces a charge of organized retail theft.
The indictments by a Plymouth County grand jury this week follow a several months long investigation by Hingham and Abington police with support by Florida-based Coupon Information Center, a nonprofit that fights coupon fraud, a release from the district attorney’s office noted.
Authorities allege that from March 10 through June 2, White and Travis walked into numerous Stop and Shop grocery stores throughout Massachusetts and used counterfeit coupons to steal $26,547 worth of products.
In one example on March 10, White and Travis used a Stop and Shop rewards program card to purchase 366 items including beverages, laundry detergent, dishwashing soap, and hygiene products, officials said. Using fraudulent coupons, the cost went from $1,658.28 to just $3.28, according to the indictment.
The women created high quality counterfeit coupons featuring barcodes and graphics that mirrored legitimate third-party coupons, the district attorney’s office said. They also used social media platforms like Facebook and Dropbox to purchase counterfeit coupons, per the indictment.
After successful hauls, the women would post photos of the products on Facebook and other social media sites, offering to sell them for discounted prices, authorities said. They would meet potential buyers in Taunton and request payments in cash, the indictment alleges.
The women allegedly executed their scheme at Stop and Shop locations in Quincy, Weymouth, Raynham, Plainville, Whitman, Abington, Pembroke, Norwell, Hingham, North Dartmouth, New Bedford, Sandwich, and Brockton, as well as in East Providence and Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Over the course of three months, police say, the women accumulated the following:
- 300 bottles of fabric freshener
- 56 bars of bath soap
- 188 bottles of fabric softener
- 226 bottles of laundry detergent
- 219 cans of air disinfectant
- 135 bottles of hand soap
- 22 skin care products
- 130 air fresheners
- 275 cases of anti-bacterial wipes
- 34 bottles of mouthwash
- 34 packages of paper towels
- 26 toothbrushes
- 21 tubes of hand cream
- 158 bottles of dish soap
On April 26, the Coupon Information Center alerted White online that she had been flagged as a person associated with illegal counterfeit coupon activities. Though she was told to cease activity, White continued on with the operation, authorities said.
The two women will be arraigned in Brockton Superior Court at a later date, the district attorney’s office said.
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