Prosecutors said a Virginia pair, with fake coupons “virtually indistinguishable” from real coupons, is one of the largest coupon fraud schemes ever discovered in the United States.
For at least three years, Lori Ann Talence worked on her home computer mixing, matching, and perfecting an art that prosecutors say became one of the largest fraud schemes of its kind ever. which cost its victims more than $31 million.
When federal agents raided her home in Virginia Beach, Va., they found evidence everywhere, prosecutors said: nearly $1 million in counterfeit coupons scattered around the house and more than 13,000 coupon designs on her computer. Frankenstein” coupon material that used to scam people across the country.
Ms Talens, 41, was sentenced on Tuesday to 12 years in prison for operating what prosecutors call “one of the largest coupon fraud schemes” in US history, adding that retailers and manufacturers have suffered $$ in damages. More than 31 million were lost.
Ms Talence and her husband, 43-year-old Pacifico Talence, pled guilty to mail fraud in April. Mr Talence was sentenced last month to seven years and three months for his role in the operation.
Lawyers representing Talence in court did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
Prosecutors said that from April 2017 to May 2020, Ms Talens used the moniker “MasterChef” to design, manufacture and manufacture a variety of counterfeit coupons in her home. The fakes, he said, were extremely reliable.
“These counterfeit coupons were virtually indistinguishable from authentic coupons and were often created with inflated prices, which are much higher than what an authentic coupon would offer, in order to obtain the item from retail for free or at a very low price,” Joseph L. Koski, an assistant US attorney, wrote in court documents.
Ms Talens used social media sites and messaging apps such as Facebook and Telegram to find and sell counterfeit coupon enthusiast groups, said Raj Parekh, acting US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. said on Tuesday.
According to court documents, Ms Talence shipped the coupons across the country, using the US Postal Service and other commercial parcel delivery services. Prosecutors said he accepted payment for the coupons using online payment methods that included bitcoin and PayPal.
According to prosecutors, Mr Talence profited from the operation and helped with shipping packages of coupons and “performing other administrative tasks at the direction of his wife”.
But it was one of the fraud victims, described in court records as “coupon enthusiasts,” who began to uncover the scheme. Enthusiasts reported the couple to the Coupon Information Center, a non-profit that works against fraud.
The group purchased the coupons from Talence, confirmed they were counterfeit, and contacted the US Postal Inspection Service to investigate further.
After executing a search warrant at the couple’s home, federal agents seized counterfeit coupons worth nearly $1 million. Court documents said that on Ms Talens’ computer, she found images of more than 13,000 “distinct and distinctive counterfeit coupon designs”. Investigators described the coupons as “Frankenstein counterfeits” in that they had pictures, text and bar codes from various manufacturers.
The center’s executive director, Bud Miller, said, “Despite Hollywood recently portraying coupon fraud as a comedy or simply as ‘bending the rules,’ it is a serious matter.” said in a statement. She added that Ms Talence’s conviction shows that “coupon counterfeiting is generally a felony, the punishment of which can include years in prison, total loss of property, lifetime reinstatement orders and loss of job opportunities.” The families of the perpetrators are also often victims.”
US Attorney Mr Parekh said the plan “damaged consumers, retailers and manufacturers nationwide and the economy at large.”
In addition to mail fraud, Ms Talens also pleaded guilty to wire fraud and health care fraud, which stemmed from a separate scheme that spoofed Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from November 2015 to February 2020.
“Coupon fraud is not a harmless crime,” Special Agent Brian Dugan, in charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office, said in a statement. He described the couple’s operation as “an audacious fraud scheme that stole more than $31 million directly from retailers and manufacturers.”
Before sentencing before US District Judge Roderick C. Young, Ms. Talence apologized in a letter filed in court.
“I am so embarrassed and ashamed of the way I have acted,” he wrote. “I realize that I have served as a terrible moral example for my three children to act responsibly. I will regret that for the rest of my life.”