Six Plead Innocent to Conspiracy, Mail Fraud Charges in Coupon Scam
ABILENE, Texas (AP) _ Connie Arvidson said she became so obsessed in her quest for coupons that she would sift through trash bins behind nightclubs in the middle of the night.
The avocation netted the Florida housewife more than $40,000 last year, but this summer it brought federal charges that she knowingly distributed counterfeit coupons.
Mrs. Arvidson of Boca Raton, Fla., was one of six people who pleaded innocent Thursday to federal conspiracy and mail fraud charges in connection with a $2 million counterfeit coupon scam.
Four others indicted by a federal grand jury agreed to plead guilty in their home states and did not appear at Thursday’s proceedings, officials said.
Also pleading innocent were James Floyd Richards of San Antonio; David George Rackmill of Stamford; David Keith Rees of Center Point; Peggy Joyce Bunce of Deerfield Beach, Fla.; and Margaret McBrayer Goodman of Kingsport, Tenn.
The defendants face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven S. Sucsy said Mrs. Arvidson bought and distributed tens of thousands of dollars worth of fake coupons.
In the alleged scheme, coupons for food and other products from 47 major consumer product companies allegedly were printed and distributed nationwide from Texas.
The 24-count indictment, handed down June 22, said that beginning in June 1988, Rackmill advertised the coupons in a circular mailed to hundreds of people after buying the fake coupons from Rees, who had them printed by Richards.
The three allegedly counterfeited 603,000 copies of 90 coupons issued by the 47 manufacturers. The other defendants allegedly purchased the coupons from Rackmill through the mail, according to the indictment.
U.S. Postal Inspector Sam Prose, who worked undercover in the case and offered Rees coupons for Crisco shortening, said the coupon purchasers participated in the conspiracy by using the coupons to obtain large amounts of the products, then sold them at flea markets.
The coupons were similar to those offered by manufacturers to customers in exchange for proof-of-purchase seals and were valued between $1 and $10.89.
Agreeing to plead guilty were Evelyn Christine Peoples of Humphrey, Ark.; Carol Jean Juel of Fullerton, Calif.; James Patrick Caprose of New Castle, Pa.; and Yvonne Suits of Cambridge, Minn.