According to FBI new information, a Virginia Beach woman sold counterfeit coupons worth $31.8million to customers. The money was used to pay for high-end vacations and home renovations.

Lori Ann Talens (41) was sentenced to 12 year imprisonment last month. She pleaded guilty for mail, wire, and health-care fraud. Her 43-year-old husband, Pacifico Talens Jr., was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for his role in supporting the scheme. 

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FBI says Talens made high-end home renovations with the proceeds, including an inground swimming pool, sunroom, and new kitchen. The family was also able to enjoy shopping and eating out at high prices, as well as vacations.

FBI labeled Talens “criminal couponer” for manipulating barcodes to get coupons at almost every store across the nation. In total, she collected $400,000 over three years from shoppers who used the coupons. The coupons were also used to fund her lavish lifestyle. Investigators found around $1,000,000 worth coupons while searching for the Talens’ house. 

FBI agents located thousands of coupons that had been made fraudulently, as well as rolls of paper and designs of coupons for 13,000 items on Lori Ann Talens home.

“There were coupons in every jacket pocket; they were stuffed in her vehicles,” Postal Inspector Jason Thomasson said in the FBI press release. 

Talens, who used Facebook and Telegram to find coupon users, was able to avoid authorities by using encrypted communication services to deal with her customers and by using cryptocurrencies for payments. 

“If the coupons are rejected, if they are counterfeit, then the retailer doesn’t get paid back for them,” FBI Special Agent Shannon Brill in the press release. The whole thing takes time. The coupon is already used many times before it’s identified as fake or fraudulent.

In the scheme, Talens used the online name “MasterChef” and made counterfeit vouchers that “were 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,” according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

Talens shipped the counterfeit coupons using the U.S. Postal Service and accepted payment through online payment methods such as Bitcoin and Paypal. Her husband assisted in shipping the counterfeit coupons and profited from the sales. 

The Talens’ scheme unraveled when one of their customers reported them to the Coupon Information Center, a coalition dedicated to coupon integrity. A coupon center purchased the coupons on behalf of Talens and confirmed that they were fake. The coupon center then notified the U.S. The case was investigated by the Postal Inspection Service.

In addition to the fraudulent coupon ring, Talens defrauded Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program out of around $43,000 over a period of five years by failing to report her husband’s employment income when applying. 

Contributing: Gabriela Miranda. 

Source: USAToday.com

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