How extreme is your coupon cutting habit? If you’ve been inspired by TLC network’s Extreme Couponing and slashed your grocery bills by 80% by chasing weekly flyers and online deals then you know that coupon cash can add up fast. But probably not as fast as the cash was allegedly rolling in for Thomas Balsiger and James Currey, two defendants in a decade old extreme couponing case that is just now making it to court in Milwaukee.
A grand jury originally indicted nearly a dozen people who were alleged to be involved in a organized coupon clipping operation that brought in an estimated $250 million dollars over a decade. This was no small time Stay-At-Home-Mom coupon clipping operation. The elaborate fraud involved International Outsourcing, the countries largest coupon outsourcing company who facilitated coupon redemptions between corporations and retailers.
Prosecutors allege the fraud included “chop-crews” working day and night to clip coupons and tumble them through cement mixers to make them appear aged before submitting them back to retailers for cash. Allegedly this organized crime outfit even began outsourcing their coupon cutting to Mexico to reduce their clipping costs.
Members of the management team would then bribe small stores to include the coupons in their claims to International Outsourcing. But in 2001 the FBI began investigating the coupon process when a large coupon-redemption payment was sent to a tiny store that didn’t even accept coupons.
Experts now widely believe this to be the largest coupon cutting fraud in history. Does this mean there are more coupons gone wild? You bet!
In Indiana a Walmart employee named Eileen Zimmerman was convicted of fleecing the retail giant out of nearly a quarter of a million dollars. Zimmerman was in charge of consolidating coupons before sending them for redemption. Zimmerman may have gotten carried away with lining her pockets with coupon cash.
Eventually she got greedy and a Walmart manager noticed an interesting pattern. On days when Zimmerman was off work the daily coupon intake averaged $500 but on days when Zimmerman was doing the books the daily coupon intake nearly tripled to a $1300 daily average. This freakenomics style anaylis suggested to the manager that Zimmerman was fraudulently collecting $800 a day in coupon cash.
Zimmerman didn’t have a “cut-crew” but simply brought in a bundle of coupons, pulled them from her pocket for inclusion with the legitimate coupons and then she would subtract that amount in cash when she was consolidating the days receipts.
Unfortunately for Zimmerman this was eventually caught on camera. She was then sentenced to six to 12 months jail time and ordered to reimburse Walmart $254,638.50. That is what we call Extreme Couponing!