October 27, 2021
Investigators seized more than $1 million worth of phony coupons at the house of alleged scammer Lori Ann Talens in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Officials detailed how a Virginia Beach woman was able to make bogus coupons and scammed retailers out of $32 million.
The scope of the fraud that Lori Ann Talens, 41, masterminded was so “staggering” that the massive sum of her theft was a “conservative estimate,” according to information released by the FBI last week.
Talens pleaded guilty in April to mail, wire, and health care fraud, in connection with the scheme. She was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison.
The modern-day Frank Abagnale — whose check fraud scam was highlighted in Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me If You Can” — was also ordered to pay $31.8 million in restitution at her September sentencing.
Talens, who has a background in marketing and strong computer design skills, was able to counterfeit coupons for “almost any grocery or drug store product and to make it for whatever value off she wanted,” federal authorities said. Designs on her seized computer allowed her to create fake coupons for some 13,000 products, according to the FBI.
“She had coupons for $24.99 off a $25 box of diapers. And it would work,” said Postal Inspector Jason Thomasson. “And you’d have people walking out the door with those diapers for almost nothing.”
Talens sold her fake coupons to a “large” group of subscribers through social media, who paid her about $400,000 over three years, authorities said. She spent the cash on “high-end home renovations,” including a new kitchen, sunroom, and in-ground pool, while her family used her coupons to spend virtually zilch on vacations and shopping trips, according to the FBI.
The fake coupons would go undiscovered for months after traveling from stores to central coupon clearinghouses that bill the product manufacturer and repay the stores.