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The REAL story behind Kristen Bell’s upcoming movie Queenpins

The real-life Queenpins: How three Arizona women were busted with $25 MILLION in counterfeit coupons they were selling online – and inspired a new movie starring Kristen BellKristen Bell, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and singer Bebe Rexha are set to star in …

The real-life Queenpins: How three Arizona women were busted with £25 MILLION in counterfeit coupons they were selling online - and inspired a new movie starring Kristen Bell

  • Kristen Bell, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and singer Bebe Rexha are set to star in an upcoming comedy called Queenpins, premiering September 10
  • It's based on the true story of Robin Ramirez, Amiko Fountain, and Marilyn Johnson of Phoenix, Arizona, who were arrested in 2012
  • The women ran a multimillion-dollar counterfeit coupon scheme, selling the faked vouchers on eBay and SavvyShopperSite
  • They targeted as many as 40 major manufacturers, including PepsiCo and Hershey, and weren't discovered until P&G did a routine audit
  • After an eight-week investigation, police raided Ramirez's home and seized more than £25 million in coupons, 22 guns, cash, 21 vehicles, and a speed boat 
  • Ramirez served prison time and all three women were ordered to pay Procter & Gamble £1,288,682 in reimbursement

By Carly Stern For Dailymail.com

Published: 22:23, 23 July 2021 | Updated: 22:42, 23 July 2021

Kristen Bell, her The Good Place co-star Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and singer Bebe Rexha are set to star in an upcoming comedy called Queenpins, in which they play a trio of women who make bank in a coupon counterfeiting scam -- but the massive real-life fraud that inspired the film was no laughing matter.

A trailer released this month shows how a suburban housewife (Bell) and her coupon vlogger friend (Howell-Baptiste) come up with a scheme to sell fake coupons online, earning them millions of dollars while contributing to costly losses for brands like Proctor & Gamble and Unilever.

The movie, which premieres September 10, offers a comical take on the true story of Robin Ramirez, Amiko Fountain, and Marilyn Johnson of Phoenix, Arizona, who were arrested in 2012 for their years-long counterfeiting racket and ordered to pay P&G millions in restitution. 

Kristen Bell, her The Good Place co-star Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and singer Bebe Rexha are set to star in an upcoming comedy called Queenpins, which is based on a true story

Kristen Bell, her The Good Place co-star Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and singer Bebe Rexha are set to star in an upcoming comedy called Queenpins, which is based on a true story

It tells how suburban housewife (Bell) and her coupon vlogger friend (Howell-Baptiste) come up with a scheme to sell fake coupons online, earning them millions of dollars while contributing to costly losses for brands like Proctor & Gamble and Unilever

It tells how suburban housewife (Bell) and her coupon vlogger friend (Howell-Baptiste) come up with a scheme to sell fake coupons online, earning them millions of dollars while contributing to costly losses for brands like Proctor & Gamble and Unilever

'It's like Robin Hood,' Howell-Baptiste's character says in the trailer, summing up the coupon fraud plan. 'We gotta steal these coupons and sell them to families who really need them. That's money in the bank.'

It's unclear if their real-life counterparts, Ramirez, Fountain, and Johnson, had such charitable aspirations when they started their illicit enterprise.

According to Coupons in the News, Ramierz started selling counterfeit coupons as early as 2007, and was eventually joined by the other two women.

The group would have fake coupons made oversees, including reproductions of legitimate coupons and made-up ones with steep savings.

They'd then sell them on eBay and a website, SavvyShopperSite, for a profit.

Users had to be 'invited' to join the site, and fans raved about the impossibly good deals, like a coupon for a free pizza worth £7 -- that would cost shoppers just £1.

Others nabbed coupons for free pet food, diapers, and household goods from as many as 40 major manufacturers, including PepsiCo and Hershey.

It's based on Robin Ramirez (pictured), Amiko Fountain, and Marilyn Johnson of Phoenix, Arizona, who were arrested in 2012 for their years-long counterfeiting racket

It's based on Robin Ramirez (pictured), Amiko Fountain, and Marilyn Johnson of Phoenix, Arizona, who were arrested in 2012 for their years-long counterfeiting racket

The women (including Fountain, pictured) had counterfeit coupons made oversees and would sell them on eBay and a website, SavvyShopperSite

The women (including Fountain, pictured) had counterfeit coupons made oversees and would sell them on eBay and a website, SavvyShopperSite

Coupons sold by the women (including Johnson, pictured) offered free or deeply-discounted items that cost companies millions

Coupons sold by the women (including Johnson, pictured) offered free or deeply-discounted items that cost companies millions

Users had to be 'invited' to join the site, and fans raved about the impossibly good deals, like a coupon for a free pizza worth £7 ? that would cost shoppers just £1

Users had to be 'invited' to join the site, and fans raved about the impossibly good deals, like a coupon for a free pizza worth £7 -- that would cost shoppers just £1

On a message board, one fan raved about paying £7 for a mega pack of Pampers, with no max value -- meaning a shopper could get more than £50 worth of product free.

'We were ordering hundreds of dollars in coupons every month,' one anonymous user told Kentucky's WPSD. 'Sometimes I would come out with three carts of groceries.'

People who purchased coupons on the site could use them for an item and even get cash back if the value of the coupon exceeded the item's price. 

For example, a person could use a £25 coupon to purchase a £15 bag of dog food and receive the difference in cash. 

'These aren't 50 cent off coupons. These are free item coupons,' Police Sgt.

Dave Lake told CBS5 later. 'For Iams, you get this coupon from her for £10 and you can get a £70 item... If you can get an unlimited number of those, think how this grows.'

'These people aren't buying a few coupons from this site,' Officer James Holmes added. 'They're buying bunches, and they're redeeming them in bunches.' 

But during Proctor & Gamble's routine audits of third-party coupon processors, the discovered fakes in circulation ? and hired private investigators to do some more digging

But during Proctor & Gamble's routine audits of third-party coupon processors, the discovered fakes in circulation -- and hired private investigators to do some more digging

People who purchased coupons on the site could use them for an item and even get cash back if the value of the coupon exceeded the item's price

People who purchased coupons on the site could use them for an item and even get cash back if the value of the coupon exceeded the item's price

Eventually, they brought in Phoenix police, who conducted an eight-week investigation

Eventually, they brought in Phoenix police, who conducted an eight-week investigation

In July of 2012, police raided Ramirez's home and seized more than £25 million worth of fake coupons

In July of 2012, police raided Ramirez's home and seized more than £25 million worth of fake coupons

They also seized more than £2 million in other assets, including 22 guns, cash, 21 vehicles, and a speed boat during the raid (Ramirez's house pictured)

They also seized more than £2 million in other assets, including 22 guns, cash, 21 vehicles, and a speed boat during the raid (Ramirez's house pictured)

But during Proctor & Gamble's routine audits of third-party coupon processors, the discovered fakes in circulation -- and hired private investigators to do some more digging.

They also turned to the Coupon Information Corporation.

Eventually, they brought in Phoenix police, who conducted an eight-week investigation.

'We used undercover and covert operations to make purchases and to identify the three suspects,' Holmes said.

In July of 2012, police raided Ramirez's home and seized more than £25 million worth of fake coupons. They also seized more than £2 million in other assets, including 22 guns, cash, 21 vehicles, and a speed boat. 

Ramirez, then 40, Fountain, then 42, and Johnson, then 54, were arrested and charged with counterfeiting, forgery, money laundering, operating an illegal enterprise, and other crimes.  

Ramirez (pictured), Fountain, and Johnson were arrested and charged with counterfeiting, forgery, money laundering, operating an illegal enterprise, and other crimes

Ramirez (pictured), Fountain, and Johnson were arrested and charged with counterfeiting, forgery, money laundering, operating an illegal enterprise, and other crimes

In February of 2013, Ramirez pleaded guilty to counterfeiting, fraud, and illegal control of an enterprise.
/p
pThe other two women (Fountain pictured) pleaded guilty to a single charge of counterfeiting Judge Rosa Mroz of Maricopa County Superior Court ordered all three to pay Procter & Gamble £1,288,682 in reimbursement

In February of 2013, Ramirez pleaded guilty to counterfeiting, fraud, and illegal control of an enterprise. The other two women (pictured) pleaded guilty to a single charge of counterfeiting

In February of 2013, Ramirez pleaded guilty to counterfeiting, fraud, and illegal control of an enterprise, though a forgery charge was dropped. Judge Daniel Martin sentenced her to 24 months, as well as seven years probation.  

The other two women pleaded guilty to a single charge of counterfeiting. 

Judge Rosa Mroz of Maricopa County Superior Court ordered all three to pay Procter & Gamble £1,288,682 in reimbursement.

The amount covered all of P&G's losses, for the fake coupons as well as extra manpower needed to deal with the issue.

Unilever also claimed losses, pointing to five particular coupons that had been founded in Ramirez's home, though a judge ruled that they couldn't prove that the three women were responsible for selling them.

The counterfeiting scheme was previously featured in the CBS TV docu-series Pink Collar Crimes in 2018.

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