NORFOLK, Va. — A Virginia Beach, Virginia, woman is facing 12 years in prison after prosecutors said that she defrauded retailers out of $31.8 million via one of the largest coupon counterfeiting rings in U.S. history.
Forty-one-year-old Lori Ann Talens is accused of devising the three-year scheme and enlisting her husband, 43-year-old Pacifico Talens Jr., to help her sell counterfeit coupons from April 2017 through May 2020, USA Today reported.
Lori Talens, who was sentenced Tuesday, pleaded guilty to mail fraud, wire fraud and health care fraud. Meanwhile, Pacifico Talens pleaded guilty to mail fraud and was sentenced to seven years in prison for assisting with the shipping of the counterfeit coupons and profiting from their sales, the newspaper reported.
“This massive counterfeit coupon scheme harmed consumers, retailers, and manufacturers nationwide, and the economy at large,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh said in a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.
According to the DOJ, a few of the couple’s most high-profile retail victims in the scheme included:
- Paper products maker Kimberly-Clark, which lost nearly $9 million.
- Household goods producer Proctor & Gamble, which lost $2.8 million.
- Food giant Unilever, which lost $2.5 million.
- Laundry and cleaning supplies maker Henkel Corp. which lost $1.7 million.
According to the DOJ, the Talenses used messaging apps on Facebook and Telegram to find coupon users and sell them counterfeits.
Specifically, Lori Talens dubbed herself “MasterChef” online and was accused of crafting counterfeit vouchers that were deemed “virtually indistinguishable from authentic coupons and were often created with inflated values, far in excess of what an authentic coupon would offer, in order to receive items from retail for free or for a greatly reduced price,” the DOJ stated.
Lori Talens then shipped the counterfeit coupons via the U.S. Postal Service and accepted payment through multiple online payment methods, including Paypal and Bitcoin, the department stated.
According to USA Today, the scam unraveled when one of the Talens’ customers reported the couple to the Coupon Information Center, a coupon watchdog organization. CIC officials then posed as a customer, purchased counterfeit coupons and alerted the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Federal authorities who searched the Talens’ home found nearly $1 million in counterfeit coupons, the DOJ stated.
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