An FBI press release revealed an extreme couponing fraud amounting to $31.8 million, in which a Virginia couple faces a combined sentence of nearly 20 years in prison. The conviction comes after the Coupon Information Corporation received a tip three years ago, although it never realized then the scale of the operation.
“These two defendants have been sentenced and held accountable for operating one of the largest coupon fraud schemes ever discovered in the United States, resulting in over $31 million in losses to victims across the country,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This massive counterfeit coupon scheme harmed consumers, retailers, and manufacturers nationwide, and the economy at large.”
Lori Ann Talens, 41, had a background in marketing with strong computer design skills. These strengths allowed her to create a coupon for almost any grocery or drug store product at whatever value. Prosecutors said that these coupons were “virtually indistinguishable” from real ones.
Special Agent Shannon Brill said “she trained herself in the different techniques she needed to manipulate barcodes to make these coupons work.”
Investigators discovered that Talens used Facebook to find groups of coupon enthusiasts to sell them fraudulent coupons. Talens communicated with her customers through an encrypted messaging app, called Telegram. The customers needed to provide proof of using fake coupons in the past, ensuring that they understood the risks involved in this operation.
“She had coupons for $24.99 off a $25 box of diapers. And it would work,” said Postal Inspector Jason Thomasson. “And you’d have people walking out the door with those diapers for almost nothing.”
Investigators found fake coupons worth more than $1 million ‘in every crevice of the house’ as well as designs for 13,000 products on her computer. Thomasson said that “there were coupons in every jacket pocket; they were stuffed in her vehicles.”
In addition to saving money by these coupons, a FBI forensic accountant discovered that Talen’s subscribers paid her almost $400,000 through payment apps and virtual currency wallets.
Her family, including husband Pacifico Talens, Jr. who is sentenced to 87 months in prison for supporting his wife’s scheme, took trips, shopped, dined out and also paid for high-end home renovations with the illegal funds.
This article was originally sourced by canada.com.