NORFOLK, Va. – A Virginia Beach couple pleaded guilty to a counterfeit coupon fraud scheme that cost retailers and manufacturers over $31 million in losses.
According to court documents, between April 2017 and May 2020, Lori Ann Talens, 41, operated a complex scheme using social media sites and apps such as Facebook and Telegram to find groups of coupon enthusiasts and sell them counterfeit coupons.
Lori Ann operated online under the moniker “MasterChef.” Court docs say she used a computer to make the counterfeit coupons in her Virginia Beach home. These counterfeit coupons were virtually indistinguishable from authentic coupons and were often created with inflated values, far in excess of what an authentic coupon would offer.
“Whenever someone uses the U.S. Mail to send counterfeit, illegal or improper items, Postal Inspectors will find them and bring them to justice,” said Peter R. Rendina, Postal Inspector in Charge, Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “We remain committed to keeping the mail safe for our customers and our employees.”
As part of the scheme, court docs say Lori Ann would ship the counterfeit coupons throughout the United States using the U.S. Postal Service and other commercial parcel delivery services and accepted payment for the counterfeit coupons through a variety of online payment methods, including Bitcoin and Paypal.
According to court documents, Lori Ann's husband, Pacifico Talens, 43, helped her with the execution of the scheme by helping with shipments and other administrative tasks at her direction.
The scheme was discovered when one of the Talens’s customers reported them to the Coupon Information Center (CIC). The CIC purchased coupons from the Talens, confirmed they were counterfeit and contacted the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for further investigation.
Federal law enforcement executed a search warrant on their home and seized nearly $1 million worth of counterfeit coupons from the residence.
They say after a review of the Talens’s computer, they found images for over 13,000 separate and distinct counterfeit coupon designs. The CIC reviewed these images and compared them to the known counterfeit coupons in circulation. The analysis concluded that coupon redemptions using the 13,000 counterfeit designs on the couple’s computer had caused approximately $31,817,997 million in losses to retailers and manufacturers.
Officials say in a separate scheme, from around November 2015 through February 2020, Lori Ann defrauded Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Lori Ann Federal authorities accuse her of fraudulently signing up for S.N.A.P. and Medicaid, and say she failed to report her husband’s employment and the income she generated from the alleged counterfeit coupon business.
They say the total loss to Medicaid and SNAP was approximately $43,000.
Both defendants pleaded guilty to mail fraud. Lori Ann also pleaded guilty to wire fraud and health care fraud.
Lori Ann is scheduled to be sentenced on August 31, and she faces a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison.
Pacifico Talens is scheduled to be sentenced on August 19, and he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.