A Virginia Beach woman is going to prison for 12 years in a massive couponing scam. Lori Ann Talens designed counterfeit coupons at home, complete with product photos and working barcodes, the Virginian-Pilot reports. Because coupons are so widely distributed and thus don’t each have unique barcodes, they’re hard to track, per NBC News. Her husband, Pacifico Talens, has also been convicted and sentenced for his role, which was mainly distributing the fakes. The coupons offered steep discounts, sometimes for more than the value of the item, so that shoppers got money back when buying items. Lori is going in for 12 years; Pacifico will serve 7 years. They are out on bond for a few weeks while they arrange care for their kids.
Lori Ann Talens started selling the coupons in 2017 through a network recruited in a coupon clipper Facebook group using the name MasterChef, earning about $400,000—and costing manufacturers about $31 million. She sent the coupons out by mail, accepting payment via PayPal or Bitcoin, the New York Times reports. One of the coupon enthusiasts recruited in the scam figured out how it worked and reported everything to the Coupon Information Center. Once Talens was caught last year, she fessed up to everything, and sat down with investigators to explain how her racket worked, and how coupon scams around the country are run, per the Pilot. (Read more coupons stories.)