Extreme couponers were sent to prison in $31.8 million fraud scheme
Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business
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(CNN) — The FBI is revealing new details about a $31.8 million counterfeit coupon scheme that landed a Virginia Beach couple in prison for nearly 20 years, combined.
In a press release last week, the agency said that investigators found fake coupons in “every crevice” of the house belonging to Lori Ann Talens and her husband, Pacifico Talens, Jr.. The falsified savings were worth more than $1 million. They also found designs for coupons for more than 13,000 products on Lori Ann Talens’ computer.
“She trained herself in the different techniques she needed to manipulate barcodes to make these coupons work,” said Special Agent Shannon Brill in the FBI release. Talens, who is considered the mastermind of the scheme, would create fake coupons with discounts “near or even over” an item’s retail value.
Talens didn’t use the fraudulent coupons for herself. The FBI said she sold them to subscribers that found her on social media and communicated with them using an encrypted messaging app. Talens was paid more than $400,000 in digital currencies such as bitcoin and sometimes “exchanged coupons for stolen rolls of the special paper stores use to print out coupons,” the agency said.
The three-year scheme was discovered by the Coupon Information Corporation, which received a tip that someone was making and mailing fraudulent coupons. One group of manufacturers said it lost $125,000 from fake coupons linked to Talens.
In September, Talens was sentenced to 12 years in prison for “perpetrating a counterfeit coupon fraud scheme” that amounted to $32 million in losses for retailers and manufacturers, according to the Department of Justice. Her husband was sentenced to 7 years in prison because he was aware of and profited from the scheme.
The couple was accused of using the money for high-end home renovations, including building a new pool and remodeling their kitchen. Talens said in a statement obtained by the New York Times that she was “deeply ashamed and embarrassed” by her actions.