An Albany mother and daughter pleaded guilty on Friday to scamming the Coca-Cola Co. through a bottle cap promotion.
Carrie Jones, 55, and Sarah Jones, 31, avoided jail time, but each must serve two years probation, and they must jointly pay back $48,000 to Coca-Cola.
“It’s a heck of a lot of restitution you’re agreeing to,” Judge Thomas McHill said to Carrie Jones.
After the plea and sentencing hearing, Det. Mike Wood of the Albany Police Department said the restitution value was just the tip of the iceberg. He believed the Joneses bilked Coke out of “six figures” worth of prizes.
In their elaborate scheme, Sarah Jones created 650 different e-mail addresses, most of them temporary, often using false information.
Valid bottle cap codes were used to get thousands of prize codes from Coke. The codes were then grouped together and sold online on e-Bay.
Prosecutor Coleen Cerda said there was no way one family, or even the city of Albany combined, could get so many prizes.
Contest rules specified that a person could win only twice and a household only five times during the promotion, which ran from May to August 2011.
The Joneses, she added, refused to give up information on where they got the codes from.
The Joneses were polite during their sentencing hearings, but did not make a statement to the court.
Defense attorney David Denhartigh spoke for Sarah Jones.
“She realizes what she did was wrong,” Denhartigh said. “I think she’s a good person and she made a big mistake.”
Sarah Jones pleaded guilty to computer crime and identity theft, both felonies.
She had been charged with four counts of computer crime, four counts of identity theft, two counts of aggravated first-degree theft and second-degree theft.
Carrie Jones pleaded guilty to two counts of computer crime. She had been charged with four counts of computer crime, two counts of aggravated first-degree theft and second-degree theft.