Owner of 4 Shop ‘n Saves charged with collecting over 300k in fraudulent coupon scheme

By Steve Pope | February 13, 2019

Detectives with the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office have accused the owner of four Pittsburgh-area Shop ‘n Save stores with collecting more than $300,000 from coupons he allegedly instructed his employees to clip from unsold newspapers.

Michael Mihelic, 59, of Franklin Park, is charged with dealing in the proceeds of illegal activity, receiving stolen property and two counts of theft by deception, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday.

Authorities began investigating Michelic when a former employee complained to police that Mihelic had ordered all of his employees to cut the unused coupons from newspapers and submit them with coupons that they had received from customers.

One former employee who worked for nine years at the store on Rochester Road told police “Everyone knows what they are doing is wrong but they do it because they were always told they had to,” the complaint said.

Another long-time employee told authorities that he personally saw either Mihelic or his accounting manager, Jacqueline Barness “leave the store with these coupons,” according to the complaint.

Michelic owns the Rochester Road, Pines Plaza, Glenshaw and Richland Mall stores. He assumed ownership of the locations after his father died in 2014. According to the complaint the practice began with Mihelic’s  father and continued when Mihelic assumed control over the stores.

According to the complaint, store employees said they were ordered to cut $500 worth of coupons at the Rochester Road location and lesser amounts at other stores.  The employees took a corresponding amount of money from the cash register so as to even out the drawer.

Authorities say Mihelic obtained $306,550 from the unused coupons between June 2014 and September 2018.

Mihelic surrendered to detectives Wednesday morning, and was released on his own recognizance.  He is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on Feb. 27.

Steve Pope can be contacted at steve.pope@grantstreetnews.com

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