NEWS WATCH

Five supermarket operators have been indicted on multiple counts of tax and mail fraud in an alleged grocery coupon fraud ring that bilked manufacturers out of $6.6 million. Prosecutors said Earle and Jeffrey Shprintz, father-and-son owners and operators of five Philadelphia/New Jersey Shop 'N' Bag supermarkets, and their general manager, Fred Heck, submitted 8.5 million unredeemed coupons to a clearinghouse

Five supermarket operators have been indicted on multiple counts of tax and mail fraud in an alleged grocery coupon fraud ring that bilked manufacturers out of $6.6 million. Prosecutors said Earle and Jeffrey Shprintz, father-and-son owners and operators of five Philadelphia/New Jersey Shop 'N' Bag supermarkets, and their general manager, Fred Heck, submitted 8.5 million unredeemed coupons to a clearinghouse for redemption between 1987 and 1991. In a separate indictment, prosecutors charged Mark Basher and Gary Ciurlino, owners and operators of three Philadelphia-area Shop 'N' Bag supermarkets, with illegally submitting 3.3 million unredeemed coupons between 1989 and 1994. The defendants, who also face charges of tax evasion and filing false returns, could not be reached for comment.

February 1997 compared with February 1996. Wholesale costs dropped 0.2% in January 1997, compared with a year ago. In February 1997, the number of price changes announced by manufacturers showed a decline of 25% from the same month a year ago. The value of the average price change also dropped, from a 3% increase to 1%.