Some fraudsters are blinded by greed, some by love, and others by both. That seems to be the case for a Virginia Beach couple who pleaded guilty to running a nationwide counterfeit coupon fraud scheme that federal prosecutors say cost retailers and manufacturers nearly $32 million.
Lori Ann Talens, 41, pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud for the scam. She also pleaded guilty to health fraud for a separate scheme in which she defrauded Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Her husband, Pacifico Talens Jr., 43, pleaded guilty to mail fraud. (Together, these two were a hot mess.)
The couple operated the coupon scheme from April 2017 through May 2020, using social media sites and apps such as Facebook and Telegram to find coupon enthusiasts. She operated under the moniker ”MasterChef” and used her home computer to design, create, and produce thousands of coupons that were virtually indistinguishable from authentic versions. (I doubt that Gordon Ramsay would have approved of these actions.)
Lori Ann shipped the counterfeit coupons throughout the country and accepted payment through a variety of online methods, including Bitcoin and PayPal. Her husband helped with shipments and performed other administrative tasks. (Just being the ‘errand boy’ did not Provide an excuse in the judge’s eyes.)
The scheme was discovered when a customer reported them to the Coupon Information Center (CIC), a coalition of consumer product manufacturers dedicated to coupon integrity. (Can I complain to them when a store won’t honor my coupon?) The CIC then purchased coupons from the couple, confirmed they were counterfeit, and contacted the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for further investigation.
During a search of the couple’s home, agents seized nearly $1 million worth of fake coupons. A review of their computer found images for more than 13,000 counterfeit coupon designs. An analysis showed the fake coupons caused nearly $32 million in losses to retailers and manufacturers. (I want to see a haul of all the clothes and products they obtained.)
Both will be sentenced in August. Lori Ann Talens could get up to 50 years in prison, while her husband faces up to 20.
In a separate scheme, from about November 2015 through February 2020, Lori Ann Talens applied for benefits from Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program while failing to disclose her husband’s income, or their illegitimate counterfeit coupon income. (Oh snap, it looks like Lori Ann was caught red handed on all fronts.)
Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, ”Virginia Beach couple pleads guilty to counterfeit coupon scheme that cost retailers nearly $32 million in losses,” published by The Virginian Pilot on April 30, 2021.
A Virginia Beach couple pleaded guilty this week to running a nationwide counterfeit coupon fraud scheme that federal prosecutors say cost retailers and manufacturers nearly $32 million.
Lori Ann Talens, 41, pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Norfolk to mail and wire fraud for the scam. She also pleaded guilty to health fraud for a separate scheme in which she defrauded Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Her husband, Pacifico Talens Jr., 43, pleaded guilty to mail fraud.