The families of two Valley women accused of helping a large-scale counterfeiting and forgery operation said they were shocked by the allegations.
Arthur Johnson said his 54-year-old wife, Marilyn Johnson, is a retired special education teacher who, according to her husband, has never gotten so much as a speeding ticket.
Arthur Johnson said his wife is accused of doing something she knew nothing about. She was allegedly helping a widespread counterfeit coupon operation that ended Tuesday with three arrests and roughly $25 million in fake coupons seized.
Arthur Johnson said his wife was arrested at their south Phoenix home where they run a small dog breeding business. He said it was through his wife's internet searches for dog food coupons that she became connected with both 40-year-old Robin Ramirez, the alleged leader of the operation, and 42-year-old Amiko Fountain, another alleged helper.
While police confiscated $2 million worth of assets from Ramirez's upscale north Phoenix home, including vehicles, guns and a speedboat, Arthur Johnson said only in the last four months did his wife begin working for her, boarding and packing coupons once or twice a week, in exchange for free coupons. The coupons were believed to be legitimate and they were told Ramirez got them through a nonprofit organization to which she belongs.
But police said those bogus coupons were coming from overseas and Ramirez was selling them online in what has now become the first counterfeiting and forgery case of its kind in the U.S.
All three women are being held at Estrella Jail in Phoenix while they await their court appearances. Marilyn Johnson's brother has helped her get a lawyer.
Marilyn Johnson's attorney, David Black, released the following statement on Friday, "Mrs. Johnson has spent her life helping others and trying to do the right thing. She is extremely remorseful for any involvement she may have had in this ordeal, but whatever involvement she may have had was accidental. Marilyn Johnson is a retired school teacher who has devoted her career to children with special needs. She has never knowingly engaged in criminal conduct, and she never would. Marilyn hopes the responsible parties will be brought to justice and that she will be allowed to return home to her family, who misses her dearly."
CBS 5 News also spoke with one of Fountain's relatives, who said Fountain is an honest person who couldn't have known about the scheme because she never gained financially from it.
Her relative said she's a licensed chiropractor who has been struggling because of the bad economy and said before her arrest she had to borrow money. Fountain will have a public defender represent her.
Ramirez's family would not comment.
Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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