• 3 accused of using fake coupons at West Melbourne Publix


    WEST MELBOURNE, Fla. - Only Eyewitness News found out how police cracked a case of extreme couponing.

    Three people are accused of using phony discounts to rip off a Brevard County Publix.

    Investigators said worker Matthew Heath knowingly took the counterfeit coupons at the store on Palm Bay Road in West Melbourne.

    The suspects, Jennifer Bailey and Debbie Dalton, walked away with thousands of dollars in groceries, investigators said. Heath got $20 per transaction.

    Police said Heath tossed the coupons before the end of every shift, which is against policy.

    The suspects were wheeling out hundreds of dollars of free groceries and sometimes were still owed cash back.

    West Melbourne police said some of the coupon deals, like $5 off Aquafina water or fresh produce, were too good to be true.

    That didn't stop a Publix employee from accepting them in the check-out line repeatedly.

    "I wouldn't have thought right away that it was somebody that was scamming the grocery store, no. I would have thought it was someone who had taken the time to go and cut all those coupons out, you know," shopper Mario Ramirez said.

    Police said some of the coupons were real, but the vast majority were fake, created on a computer with some simple software.

    "He said he knew the coupons were frauds, but he still took them. Once he takes them, he throws them in the trash, that's against policy," said Det. Detective Antonio Romano with West Melbourne police.

    Heath is facing grand theft and fraud charges along with Bailey. Investigators have an arrest warrant out for Dalton.

    "Typically they'd have between $600 and $700 worth of groceries and would spending only 15 cents to a dollar or two for the groceries," Romano said.

    Sometimes Publix owed the suspects money.

    I think it's a great store and I think that's absolutely ridiculous. They're taking advantage of the system," shopper Johannah Guillette said.

    Police said one of the suspects wheeled out enough to donate some of her groceries to a local church and food pantry.

    Police believe the suspects may have checked out with as much as $20,000 dollars in stolen groceries at the Publix.

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