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You already know that coupons can save you money when you go grocery shopping. But who knew they could also help you pay your monthly bills?

They can, if you skip that pesky step about actually buying the required products, and just trade the coupons in for cash instead.

That’s what police in Spring Township, Pennsylvania say a cashier did at a local Weis grocery store. 23-year-old Kayla Stonerook was arraigned last week on charges of theft and receiving stolen property, five months after she was allegedly caught in the act of some particularly extreme couponing.

Back in September, store management called police after they confronted Stonerook with printouts of her transactions. Over a ten-day period, police say she stole more than $2,500 by ringing up coupons and exchanging them for cash.

It started out small, Stonerook allegedly told investigators. The first time, she said, she gathered $20 in unused coupons, rang them up as though they had been used by customers, took a twenty out of the cash register and pocketed it.

It was so easy, police said she did it again. And again and again. She’s accused of making progressively larger cashouts, maxing out at $400 in one day.

So what was she doing with all of that cash? Stonerook was in school at the time, studying to become a nurse. And she’s planning a wedding later this year. So she wasn’t doing “anything elaborate” with the money, a police report quotes her as saying – she was just using it to pay bills.

But police were apparently unswayed by her pragmatic ways – stealing is stealing, after all. So they booked her on felony charges of theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property, and four misdemeanor counts of theft by deception.

This is not the first time a grocery store employee has tried to get away with such a scheme. In fact, some others have managed to get away with a lot more. In 2014, a Kroger customer service manager in Tennessee was accused of working with a customer to scan at least $13,000 worth of coupons, exchanging them for cash and gift cards, and sharing the proceeds. In 2013, a former Walmart employee in Texas was arrested for cashing out more than $70,000 in coupons that were never actually used by customers. And back in 2012, a Walmart cashier in Pennsylvania pocketed a mind-boggling $255,438.50 over two years, by smuggling stacks of coupons from home into the store, scanning them, and taking their value in cash.

So a couple of thousand bucks doesn’t seem quite so bad in comparison. Stonerook might actually have been lucky she got caught, before things got completely out of hand.

Curiously, Stonerook was arraigned just two days after a former co-worker who’s also charged with felony theft. 35-year-old Misty Ramser, who was also a cashier at the very same Weis store, is accused of stealing nearly $3,000 by overreporting lottery payouts to customers, giving them what they won, and pocketing the difference.

There must have been something about that store that made helpful employees want to help themselves.

“2016 was (a) year of mistakes made and lessons learned,” Stonerook wrote in a New Year’s Day Facebook post. “So many great blessing(s) coming up this year that I’m not looking back on the past.”

Unfortunately, she can’t put the past behind her just yet. She’s due back in court tomorrow for a preliminary hearing. If she’s looking to save some money on her bills in the meantime, she’ll have to use coupons the old-fashioned way – by redeeming them for products, and not for cash.

Image source: Weis

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