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02/27/2003

FBI Makes Arrests in Grocery Coupon Fraud Scheme

MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Federal law enforcement officials arrested 13 men and three women in five states Wednesday in a multimillion-dollar crime scheme involving fraudulent coupon redemption and money-laundering, Reuters reports. The scheme involved 370 retail outlets, including small grocery stores, in 15 states.

The scam netted more than $4 million, some of which was sent to Jordan and Israel's West Bank, said FBI authorities. Details of how the money was used were still under investigation. At this time, there is no evidence that the scheme was related to terrorism, authorities said.

Alleged participants are accused of using coupons clipped from newspapers, primarily in the New York area. They would pose as store owners and send the clipped coupons to a coupon clearing house, which reimbursed the phony stores, according to authorities. In some cases, the conspirators would use real store owners to submit the coupons to the clearing house.

The investigation began in June 2001.