A Virginia woman will spend 12 years behind bars for masterminding one of the biggest coupon frauds ever investigated by law enforcement.
Under the moniker “MasterChef,” Lori Ann Talens, 41, allegedly ran a large-scale coupon forgery operation between 2018 and 2020, accepting payments for her high-quality fakes in the form of Bitcoin and PayPal. Talens’ forgeries were described as nearly perfect imitations, complete with glossy paper, corporate logos and working barcodes.
The scam masterminded by Talens is estimated to have caused $31.8 million in damages to over 100 victims; most of which are businesses that were the subject of the coupon fraud.
An avid coupon collector for years prior, Talens first joined coupon collector groups on Facebook where she began to develop her forgery skills. She was eventually informed about the existence of the darknet by a trusted group member and convinced to move her sales operations there, lured by the idea of expanding business.
Photo of Lori Ann Talens. Source: David B. Hollingsworth
In a letter to the court, Talens admitted to being “blinded by (her) own greed.” Her husband, Pacifico Talens Jr., was sentenced in August to seven years and three months for his contribution the scam.
While searching a computer seized during a raid on the couples’ home, investigators found 13,000 templates for “separate and distinct counterfeit coupon designs.” Cross-referencing the templates with known counterfeit coupons revealed that approximately $31.82 million worth of damage had been done to retailers and manufacturers because of the scam.
Also obtained during the seizure was $1 million in fake coupons, waiting to be mailed.
Prosecutors described the operation as “one of the biggest counterfeit coupon schemes in history” in sentencing documents, stating that Talens utilized “the internet, social media, and expertise she learned from her experience in the retail world” to perfect her craft.
“Her skill was such that the coupons she created were virtually indistinguishable from genuine coupons and took counterfeit coupon experts to positively confirm them as counterfeit,” prosecutors added.
Talens allegedly employed her husband Pacifico as a delivery driver who would often drive orders of coupons to postal centers at her behest. He would also test out the quality of the forged coupons on local franchises to make sure they were suitable for use.
Both Pacifico and Lori Ann Talens had already plead guilty to unrelated mail fraud charges in April after they were accused of abusing food stamp benefits.
Per court ruling, the couple will have to pay back a minimum $500 per month in restitution until the entire $31.8 million in damages has been paid off.