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Oregon mom and daughter guilty in Coca-Cola bottle-cap scam


March 9, 2011: Bottles of Coca-Cola, which will be delivered to stores, are seen in a warehouse at the Swire Coca-Cola facility in Draper, Utah. (Reuters)

An Oregon mother and daughter who devised an elaborate scheme to scam Coca-Cola in a bottle cap promotion have been sentenced to probation and must pay back almost $50,000 to the corporation.

Carrie Jones, 55, and Sarah Jones, 31, were arrested after corporate investigators in 2011 tracked an unusually high number of winnings to a computer IP address in Albany.

During the promotion, which ran from May to August 2011, customers could text a code found underneath the cap of their Coca-Cola product to see if their code was a winner. Winners then emailed their winning code to Coca-Cola to receive a prize code, redeemable for things like concert tickets.

Prosecutor Coleen Cerda said the odds were against the city of Albany -- let alone one family -- getting so many prizes. Contest rules also specified that a person could win only twice and a household only five times during the four-month promotion.

To avoid the limit, it was alleged that the Joneses' manufactured email addresses using other people's identities. The prize codes were then grouped together and sold online on eBay.

The Joneses, the prosecutor added, never divulged where they got the winning prize codes.

Sarah Jones pleaded guilty Friday to computer crime and identity theft. Carrie Jones pleaded guilty to computer crime.

"It's a heck of a lot of restitution you're agreeing to," Judge Thomas McHill said.

But police Det. Mike Wood told the Albany Democrat-Herald that he thinks the Joneses bilked Coke out of "six figures" worth of prizes.

Neither woman made a statement in court.

"She realizes what she did was wrong," said defense attorney David Denhartigh, speaking for Sarah Jones. "I think she's a good person, and she made a big mistake."

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