The Queenpins true story reveals that there were three women involved in the real-life scheme, not two like in the movie. They were ringleader Robin Ramirez (46 at the time of her arrest), Marilyn Johnson (62), and Amiko "Amy" Fountain (42). The real Queenpins' mugshots are displayed below. The two women in the movie, Connie Kaminski (Kristen Bell) and JoJo Johnson (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), are not directly based on any of the real-life women.
Kristen Bell's character's background of being a former Olympic race walker who turns to couponing after having no luck getting pregnant (and spending tens of thousands on in vitro treatments) is fictional, as is Kirby Howell-Baptiste's character's unsuccessful efforts to make it as a vlogger.
The three women, Robin Ramirez, Amiko Fountain, and Marilyn Johnson, mostly sold free-product coupons. They included coupons for anything from Hershey bars to dog food to diapers. "These aren't 50-cent-off coupons. These are free-item coupons," Phoenix Police Sgt. David Lake said. "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" (Yahoo Finance). The women sold their counterfeit coupons on various online sites, including eBay and their own website, SavvyShopperSite.com. The site's name was inspired by the legit coupon magazine Savvy Shopper, which is in no way related. The real-life Queenpins thought that the similar name would make their scheme appear more legitimate.
For the most part, yes. According to Sgt. David Lake, who was in charge of the coupon investigation at the Phoenix Police Department, "The opulence and the money was the equivalent of drug cartel-type stuff." In addition to the $40 million in counterfeit coupons that they confiscated, police seized $2 million in assets from the three women, including four homes, 22 guns, a 40-foot speed boat, and 21 vehicles. -JillCataldo.com
The true story behind Queenpins reveals that the women bought them in bulk overseas and then posted them for sale on sites like eBay and their own website, SavvyShopperSite.com, which is now defunct. "[Ringleader Robin Ramirez] would bring in these coupons from overseas in large quantities, quantities we never could imagine and she would sell them on her website for about 50 percent of face value," said Sgt. David Lake of the Phoenix Police Department.
While it's hard to know how many customers knew they might be engaging in criminal activity, there were a few red flags that should have at least made them suspicious. On the real Queenpins website, SavvyShopperSite.com, they sold free-product coupons, with the caveat that you must spend at least $50 on coupons per order. Savvy Shopper Site had a few other suspicious requirements. You could only place an order if you had a referral from a current customer, and you had to pay for your order with a Green Dot Moneypak (prepaid debit card). Perhaps the most telling sign that things weren't on the up-and-up was the fact that the site advised, "Please do not share this information with people that you don't actually know. This includes forums and any public viewing areas or websites."
Some of the site's customers were resellers, whom the site actively courted. The resellers would turn around and sell the counterfeit coupons on places like eBay. This allowed the coupons to get into the hands of a much wider array of shoppers. -JillCataldo.com
Paul Walter Hauser's character, Ken Miller, seems to be a very loosely-inspired caricature of Bud Miller, the Executive Director of the Coupon Information Corporation (CIC). Bud is a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and an industry veteran. He has been commended by the FBI for supporting them in numerous efforts to fight "complex coupon fraud schemes." Bud played an instrumental role in taking down the three women who inspired the Queenpins movie.
Unlike Bud Miller, Hauser's character doesn't work for the Coupon Information Corporation (a not-for-profit association of consumer product manufacturers dedicated to fighting coupon misredemption and fraud). That would be too prestigious for Hauser's wannabe-cop Miller (Hauser borrows from his 2019 performance in Richard Jewell). Instead, Hauser's character is a loss-prevention officer for a grocery store chain. He also doesn't work closely with the FBI. Instead, he becomes highly frustrated when the FBI blows off his concerns.
No. US Postal Inspector Simon Kilmurry (Vince Vaughn) appears to be entirely fictional. The character mainly functions to forward the plot and as the other half of the "buddy-cop" duo with Ken Miller (Paul Walter Hauser). In real life, the Phoenix Police Department led the investigation with the assistance of the FBI. Husband-and-wife filmmakers Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly did fly to Arizona in 2018 to interview the real detective who worked the case. However, he doesn't appear to have inspired Vaughn's Kilmurry.
Yes. The Phoenix Police Department conducted undercover operations in which they purchased the counterfeit coupons. This happened after various companies that had been impacted by the bogus coupons hired private investigators to uncover the origins of the coupons. These companies included Hershey, Procter & Gamble, and the Coupon Information Corporation. -TIME
In researching the true story behind Queenpins, we learned that the Phoenix Police Department's real-life investigation into the three Arizona women who inspired the movie lasted eight weeks. The department led the investigation with the assistance of the FBI. -Yahoo Finance
Yes. While it might seem outrageous and is played for laughs in the movie, in July 2012, a SWAT team really did raid the Phoenix residences of the three women who played a part in the counterfeit coupon operation. Bud Miller, who was the Executive Director of the Coupon Information Corporation (CIC), told money-saving columnist Jill Cataldo, "Initial contact was made by a SWAT team removing the front door of a residence by force. The CIC and some of its members were on location in a mobile command unit watching the bust." Bud Miller is thought to have loosely inspired Paul Walter Hauser's character in the movie, Ken Miller.
While exploring the Queenpins true story, we discovered that police seized a total of $40 million worth of counterfeit coupons. Their original estimate was $25 million, but KPHO, a local TV station, reported the corrected amount. In addition, police recovered $2 million worth of assets from the homes of the three women.
The Coupon Queens cheated as many as 40 major manufacturers (Business Insider). "We're talking about anywhere from $400 to $600 million in loss," said Officer James Holmes of the Phoenix Police Department. "This is to American companies who produced American products and hire American citizens" (DSA).
The Arizona coupon ring's leader, Robin Ramirez, and her accomplices, Marilyn Johnson and Amiko Fountain, were arrested in July of 2012. They were charged with counterfeiting, forgery, operating an illegal enterprise, money laundering, and other violations. Mugshots of the real women behind Queenpins are displayed below. The leader, Ramirez, pleaded guilty to fraud, counterfeiting, and illegal control of an enterprise. A charge for forgery was dropped. She was sentenced to two years in prison, followed by seven years probation. She was the only one of the three to receive jail time.
Her accomplices, Johnson and Fountain, pleaded guilty to a single charge of counterfeiting. All three women were ordered by the court to pay Procter & Gamble $1,288,682 to cover the company's losses. Unilever also tried to seek reimbursement from the women but was unsuccessful. Critics argued that the punishment was far too light and wouldn't deter future coupon counterfeiters.
The bare-bones blueprint for the story is accurate; a small group of women make millions selling counterfeit coupons. They enjoy their newfound wealth, only to have their criminal enterprise crumble when they are investigated, raided, and arrested. However, everything that's built onto this premise in the movie is almost entirely fictional. That includes the details about the women and the two men chasing after them. The filmmakers, Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, chose not to interview the real Queenpins for the movie. "We knew, based on our research on past films, the more we dig into the real lives, it becomes much more serious, much more dramatic," Pullapilly told the New York Post. "The story we wanted to tell was finding your own self-worth, finding your own happiness, but with a comedic lens."
As often happens with comedies inspired by real life, Queenpins forgoes historical accuracy in favor of trying to create a humorous storyline. It will be left for viewers to decide if the truth was worth the sacrifice.