(The Red Wire) – Who doesn’t like saving a few cents off of their favorite products here and there? And we all know that there are some seriously crazy couponers out there. But Lori Ann Villanueva Talens of Virginia Beach and her husband, Pacifico Talens Jr., took it to a whole new level. With a background in marketing and strong computer design skills, Lori Talens taught herself how to create fake coupons for almost any grocery store or drugstore product, and to make them for any value she wanted to.
According to prosecutors, Mrs. Talens was the mastermind of the operation and had perfected the art of creating counterfeit coupons that were so realistic, they were virtually identical to genuine coupons. She designed and printed tens of thousands of these fraudulent coupons at home, and then sold and distributed them to over 2,000 customers that she had accumulated on social media sites, where she was known as “MasterChef.” Over a period of 3 years, she was paid roughly $400,000 by her followers. Prosecutors believe that her husband helped with shipping the fake coupons and other administrative tasks.
The scheme was uncovered after a member of Talens’ secret network reported her to the Coupon Information Corporation, which is an agency that is dedicated to coupon integrity. When law enforcement officials executed a warrant on the deviant duos’ property, they discovered a collective $1 million worth of fake coupons packed into every crevice of the Virginia Beach couples’ home. According to Postal Inspector Jason Thomasson, there were coupons in every jacket pocket and stuffed in every vehicle.
About 100 companies were victims of Mrs. Talens’ couponing scheme, including Coca-Cola, Ziplock, and Proctor & Gamble. The majority of her coupons offered savings that were either equal to the price of the merchandise or greater than the value. With a nearly $9 million loss, the paper products company Kimberly-Clark was hit the hardest by this illegal plot. The FBI also found more than 13,000 coupon designs on the Talens’ computer.
After reviewing the fraudulent designs and carefully comparing them to counterfeit coupons in circulation, the FBI determined that Lori Talens was responsible for almost $32,000,000 in lost revenue for the victimized companies. They discovered that she had used her ill-gotten profits to redesign her kitchen, buy an in-ground swimming pool, hire a contractor to build a sunroom addition to her house, and pay for lavish family vacations.
Authorities also accused Mrs. Talens of fraudulently receiving $43,000 in benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Medicaid program. On September 14, Mrs. Talens was sentenced to 12 years in prison, after pleading guilty to wire fraud and mail fraud. She was also sentenced to an additional 10 years for welfare fraud, which will be served concurrently with her 12-year sentence. Her husband was sentenced back on August 17, and he received a penalty of 87 months in prison for mail fraud only.
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