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Grocery owner charged with skimming more than $300G in coupons

2019-02-14

SHOP 'n SAVE retail grocery store. (Sipa USA via AP)

A grocery store owner allegedly gave himself the ultimate discount when he scammed $307,000 in fraudulent coupon use.

Michael John Mihelic, 59, was arraigned Wednesday on charges of theft by deception, receiving stolen property, conspiracy and dealing in the proceeds of illegal activity, the Associated Press reported.

His method: Have employees at his four Shop ’n Save supermarkets cut coupons out of unsold newspapers, then claiming the funds as if customers had used them.

This was a second-generation business for Mihelic’s family, since the practice had begun with his late father.

The scam started to unravel when a former employee came forward in 2017, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. At one of the locations they were told to cut $500 worth of coupons and lesser amounts at other stores, the newspaper reported.

Detectives with the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office began investigating in 2017 when a former employee of the Rochester Road store came forward and told police of Mihelic’s standing orders to cut the unused coupons and turn them in as though they were used by customers.

“Everyone knows what they are doing is wrong but they do it because they were always told they had to do it,” a manager said in the complaint, according to the Tribune-Review.

The employees would then take the corresponding amount of money out of the cash register so as to even out the drawer, the Tribune-Review said. This lasted for four years, from June 2014 through September 2018, with cash register reports showing $50 to $100 worth of illegitimate coupons added daily, totaling $306,550.

Mihelic turned himself in on Wednesday and was released on his own recognizance, the Tribune-Review reported.