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FBI agents seized about $1 million worth of counterfeit coupons inside the home of Lori Ann Talens, 41, and her husband Pacifico Talens, 43. She was sentenced to twelve years in jail on Tuesday. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years and three months on Sept. 20, 2021. Their lawyers declined to comment.
For three years, Lori Ann, aka Master Chef, worked from home mixing, matching, and perfecting an artwork that became the largest coupon counterfeiting scheme in American history. According to the FBI Norfolk Field Office special agent Brian Dugan, this coupon fraud is an audacious fraud scheme defrauding retailers of $31.8 million in sales.
When the FBI agents raided her home in Virginia Beach, Va., they found proof of counterfeit coupons scattered across the residence and another 13,000 coupon designs on her computer.
Master Chef is accused of designing and creating counterfeit coupons in her Virginia Beach home from April 2017 to May 2020. The fakes are extraordinarily believable. FBI agents confirmed that these counterfeit coupons had been indistinguishable from the original coupon and sold at inflated values.
She used social media sites like Facebook and Telegram to group enthusiasts who wanted to buy counterfeits. Then, she shipped the coupons around the country and received payments through PayPal or Bitcoin.
The scam was exposed when one of the victims confirmed that the coupons were counterfeit and immediately contacted the Coupon Information Center (CIC), a coalition of client product producers devoted to coupon integrity.
After confirming the couple had sold them counterfeit coupons, the CIC contacted the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for an additional investigation.
The CIC reviewed those pictures and compared them to the counterfeit coupons in circulation. The evaluation concluded that coupon redemptions and the usage of the 13,000 fake designs found on the couple’s laptop amounted to losses of over $31.8 million for manufacturers and retail outlets.
Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
The New York Times: ‘Frankenstein’ Coupons Worth $31 Million Result in 12-Year Sentence; by Johnny Diaz
Inquirer: Fil-Am and husband sentenced in $32 million coupon fraud
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Office of Public Affair’s Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image by Courtesy of Chris Potter’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License