PHOENIX -- A woman is accused of creating fraudulent charitable coupon books and soliciting teens to sell them door to door.
Christina Michelle Pacheco, 39, faces charges including use of a minor in a criminal syndicate, taking the identity of another person, fraud scheme and forgery.
Phoenix police said Pacheco paid teens to sell the fraudulent coupons in the name of the organization Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). The coupon offers were not authorized by the companies displayed.
The investigation began after police were called to a home near 51st Avenue and Pinnacle Peak Road on Jan. 31 for a confrontation between Pacheco and Jessica Smith, the Arizona director of SADD.
"A teen had actually attempted to sell the fraudulent items to the director and she was able to locate Pacheco in the area," Officer James Holmes said in a news release.
The two women got into an argument over the coupons. Holmes said the organization had already received a complaint from a Phoenix business where one of the coupons had been presented and the director had been made aware of the fraud.
Police said Pacheco was found in possession of more than 80 coupon books that displayed the SADD trademarked name and logo.
According to court documents, Pacheco told police she had an Arizona chapter of SADD. The investigation revealed that she had attempted to register a SADD chapter online the next day and again by fax on Feb. 12, but both applications were declined by the organization.
The coupon books were valued at $20. Holmes said Pacheco paid the teens a percentage for each one sold and kept the rest.
Detectives said that the teens had no idea they had been made part of the criminal enterprise.
"In fact, the teens thought they were helping a worthy cause and making a bit of money in the process," Holmes said.
At the onset of the investigation, detectives warned Pacheco to stop producing and selling the fraudulent charity coupons until the issue had been resolved. However, a Peoria resident was sold a fraudulent coupon book in February.
Peoria police began working with Phoenix police detectives and Pacheco was arrested on Wednesday. Her bond was set at $25,000.
Statement from Arizona SADD:
SADD chapters in high schools and middle schools throughout Arizona work tirelessly to help support their classmates in making healthy decisions. As part of their efforts, they raise funds to bring in speakers, attend conferences, and make a difference in their communities. When fraudulent fundraising occurs, it undermines their hard work and harms the reputation and credibility our students work so hard to build. We take cases like this seriously because we honor and respect the work SADD chapters do, and find it very unfortunate that some people would take advantage of the good name that these young people and their adult supporters have built. We thank Arizona law enforcement officers and prosecutors for helping us put an end to this fraud, and we hope it serves as an example to others who might illegally use SADD's name and logo for criminal purposes.