A Virginia woman was able to scam millions of dollars from retailers with the use of fraudulent coupons.
Lori Ann Talens, 41, and her husband, Pacifico, 43, of Virginia Beach, were involved in a "nationwide scheme" between April 2017 and May 2020 where they created and sold fake coupons, causing losses of around $31,817,997 from retailers and manufacturers, according to a statement from the Justice Department.
The couple, who have pleaded guilty to counts of fraud and were sentenced to time in prison, used Facebook and Telegram to get in touch with coupon lovers and get them in on the scheme, authorities said.
"Counterfeiting coupons harms the entire retail industry and causes financial loss to consumers, businesses, and the economy. As this case demonstrates, those who use illegal get-rich-quick schemes to deceive others will be brought to justice," Raj Parekh, the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in the DOJ statement.
"The first time the Coupon Information Corporation (CIC) called Postal Inspector Jason Thomasson with a tip about a Virginia Beach resident who they believed was making and mailing counterfeit coupons, the center didn’t yet have a sense of the fraud’s scale. Without a loss amount, Thomasson didn’t think he could gather support for an investigation," the FBI said in a statement.
Months later, the CIC provided another tip, this time telling Thomasson they'd been able to link roughly $125,000 worth of fake coupons back to Talens, according to the FBI statement. Shannon Brill, a special agent with the FBI, got interested and joined the investigation.
During a search of Lori Ann Talens' home, agents found thousands of counterfeit coupons, rolls of coupon paper, and coupon designs for more than 13,000 products on her computer. Federal Bureau of Investigation
Upon obtaining a search warrant, investigators found $1 million worth of fraudulent coupons in every nook and cranny of the house, ranging from jacket pockets to Talen's cars, according to the FBI statement.
Talens, who had a background in marketing and computer design, was able to create a coupon for almost any grocery or drug store product and make it for whatever value off she wanted, Brill and Thomasson said.
"She trained herself in the different techniques she needed to manipulate barcodes to make these coupons work," said Brill, explaining that Talens would "have coupons for $24.99 off a $25 box of diapers."
The Talens pleaded guilty to mail fraud in April, according to the DOJ. Lori Ann Talens additionally pleaded guilty to wire fraud and healthcare fraud.
Lori Ann Talens was sentenced in September to more than 12 years of prison time and required to pay $31.8 million in restitution to the manufactures and retailers from which she stole.
Pacifico, whom the DOJ said assisted in the scheme and profited off of it, was sentenced to 87 months in prison.
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Original Author: Elizabeth Faddis
Original Location: Virginia woman's $31M coupon scam revealed