A Virginia Beach couple ended up scamming retailers and manufacturers out of almost $32 million after creating an extreme couponing scheme.
Forty-one-year-old Lori Ann Talens and her husband Pacifico Talens Jr. were sentenced to a combined 20 years in jail, CNN reports. Lori Ann received 12 years for “perpetrating a counterfeit coupon fraud scheme” while Pacifico received 7 years for being aware of and profiting from the scheme.
The FBI recently opened up with more details about the crazy couponing case in a press release. Special Agent Shannon Brill and Postal Inspector Jason Thomasson worked the case together. When they initially searched the Talens’ house, they discovered about $1 million worth of fake coupons crammed into “every crevice” of it.
“There were coupons in every jacket pocket; they were stuffed in her vehicles,” Thomasson said. You can see the sheer number of them in the picture from FBI Chicago’s tweet below.
Lori Ann, per the FBI, has “a background in marketing and strong computer design skills.” Brill and Thomasson found designs on Lori Ann’s computer for more than 13,000 different products.
“She trained herself in the different techniques she needed to manipulate barcodes to make these coupons work,” Brill said. Most retail workers didn’t question the coupons because “that’s not their job,” Brill said. So long as “the coupon scanned correctly, the store would honor it.” Even if that discount turned out to be “near or even over the retail value of the item.”
“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.”
How Did the Talens’ Extreme Couponing Scheme Work?
The Talens didn’t always use the coupons for themselves. Instead, they sold the coupons to “subscribers” who found Lori Ann over social media. She would then communicate with them over an encrypted messaging app, only talking to people referred to by other members of the fraud group. The new buyers also had to provide ID and evidence that they’d used fraudulent coupons before.
The subscribers paid the Talens through virtual currency like Bitcoin or online payment applications like Venmo or PayPal. Sometimes, they even “exchanged coupons for stolen rolls of the special paper stores use to print out coupons.”
Over the course of three years, Lori Ann amassed about $400,000 from her subscribers. She used the money to pay for “high-end home renovations,” including a remodeled kitchen, in-ground pool, and sunroom.
The FBI first got tipped off to the Talens by the Coupon Information Corporation (CIC). This group of manufacturers tracks coupon fraud. They called Thomasson and told him they could link $125,000 in fakes to the Talens.