Virginia Beach Woman is Sentenced to 12 Years for Creating $31.8 Million Coupon Fraud: FBI

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A Virginia Beach couple has been convicted of operating a $31.8 million coupon fraud scheme out of their home in what prosecutors called “one of the largest coupon fraud schemes ever discovered in the United States,”According to reports, officials stated that they had no idea.

Lori Ann Talens was sentenced to 12 Years in Prison last month. She pleaded guilty to wire fraud, mail fraud, and fraud. health care fraud in April. Pacifico Talens Jr. (43 years old) supported the scheme. He was sentenced for more than 7 year imprisonment. Fox News reported

The “criminal couponer’s”According to the, they were ordered to pay $31.8million in restitution for the manufacturers and retailers who suffered losses under the scheme. Press release

The investigation began when Coupon Information Corporation (CIC), a group of manufacturers that tracks coupon theft, received a tip from Jason Thomasson about a Virgina Beach resident suspected of creating counterfeit coupons.

One of the fraud victims was described as: “coupon enthusiast,”Court records show that she began her own investigation into the couple and reported them to the CIC. The New York Times  previously reported.

The CIC linked $125,000 worth of fakes to the suspect counterfeiter just a few months after the investigation was completed. Thomasson, also a task force officer at the FBI’s Norfolk office, teamed up with Special Agent Shannon Brill to crack the case.

“It came down to the volume of coupons Talens created and her ability to create fakes that offer deep discounts off of goods,”The agents agreed. 

Talens had a marketing background and computer design skills, and according to officials, was able to create a coupon for almost any grocery or drugstore product and make it for whatever value she wanted.

“She trained herself in the different techniques she needed to manipulate barcodes to make these coupons work,”Brill. 

Agents stated that the discount was close to or greater than the retail value.

“She had coupons for $24.99 off a $25 box of diapers. And it would work,” Thomasson said. “And you’d have people walking out the door with those diapers for almost nothing.”

During a search warrant of Talens’ home, investigators found fake coupons worth more than $1 million, in what officials described as “every crevice of the house.”  

“There were coupons in every jacket pocket; they were stuffed in her vehicles,” Thomasson said. They also found designs on Talens’ computer that allowed her to create coupons for more than 13,000 products.

Prosecutors said that the fake coupons “virtually indistinguishable,” the Times reported.

Officials also discovered that Talens not only used her own coupons, but she sold them to a group of subscribers who found her through social media. She used an encrypted app to communicate with her customers and would only allow new subscribers into the group if they were referred by an existing member of the group, officials said.

Talens would either accept payment through payment apps, virtual currency, or exchange coupons for stolen rolls of the special paper that stores use to print coupons on, FBI officials said. 

Over three years, FBI officials said, Talens was paid about $400,000 by her subscribers, officials said. 

With the money, she paid for a new kitchen, sunroom and,  in-ground swimming pool. Her family took trips, shopped, and dined out while paying little or nothing for the things they consumed, officials said, according to the release.

An FBI forensics accountant was able to trace thousands of transactions Talens made through the payment apps and virtual currency wallets. 

The $31.8 million in coupon fraud, agents said,  “is likely a conservative estimate of what Talens and her group of criminal couponers were able to steal.”

Over a period of five years, Talen also defrauded Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program out of about $43,000 by failing to report her husband’s legitimate employment income when applying, Fox reported.

She pleaded guilty to the scheme that ran from Nov. 2015 to Feb. 2020, The New York Times previously reported. 

Talens said in a statement obtained by the New York Times that she was “”She is deeply ashamed and embarrassed” for her actions.

Bud Miller, executive director of Coupon Information Corporation, said in a Statement:

“Despite Hollywood’s recent portrayal of coupon fraud as a comedy or simply ‘bending the rules,’ it is a serious matter,”  he said. 

Miller went on: “He said the sentencing of Ms. Talens showed “coupon counterfeiting is generally a felony level offense, the penalties of which may include years in prison, total loss of assets, lifelong restitution orders, and reduced job opportunities. The perpetrator’s families often suffer as well.”

According to the U.S. attorney, the scheme was illegal “harmed consumers, retailers and manufacturers nationwide, and the economy at large,”According to the Times,