Queenpins: The Real Story
Posted on September 8, 2021 at 8:00 am
The crime comedy “Queenpins” is based on the true “pink collar crime” story of three Arizona women who masterminded a $40 million fraud based on grocery store coupons. Yes, coupons. It may sound silly and trivial, but coupons are like money. If you can buy a coupon for a free box of detergent or diapers for a tenth of the purchase price, you have stolen that item from the company that makes it and you have paid a criminal to help you do it. The movie is light-hearted, if not quite aspirational. But the reality is grubbier.
Robin Ramirez, Amiko Fountain, and Marilyn Johnson sold counterfeit coupons for products from more than 40 companies. The ring used a series of twelve different bank accounts to house their money. One account had more than $2 million. When they were arrested, they had $40 million in coupons and authorities later estimated that the coupon ring cost corporations hundreds of millions of dollars in profit.
Unlike the story in the movie, which has a postal inspector played by Vince Vaughn and a private security “loss prevention officer” played by Paul Walter Hauser tracking down the perpetrators, it was Proctor and Gamble who initially uncovered the fraud and the Phoenix police department who ran the investigation, led by Officer Sara Garza and Sergeant Dave Lake, assisted by The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office the private company Coupon Information Corporation, and the FBI Internet Crimes Unit. The County of Maricopa was also able to seize over $2,000,000 in assets, which included cash, guns, luxury cars, a speed boat, properties, and high end recreational vehicles. Ramirez was sentenced to two years in jail. Johnson and Fountain, who cooperated with law enforcement, were sentenced to probation. The three were also ordered to pay (partial) restitution: $1,288,682 to cover P&G’s losses.
The story was included in the CBS series “Pink Collar Crime.”