Fil-Am and husband sentenced in $32 million coupon fraud
NORFOLK, Virginia —A Filipina American from Virginia Beach was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to defrauding retailers out of $31.8 million through one of the largest coupon counterfeiting rings in U.S. history.
Lori Ann Villanueva Talens, 41, was accused of hatching the three-year scheme and enlisting her husband, Pacifico Talens Jr., 43, to help her sell counterfeit coupons from April 2017 through May 2020.
Lori Talens pleaded guilty to mail fraud, wire fraud and health care fraud. Pacifico Talens pleaded guilty to mail fraud.
Lori Talens was sentenced on Sept. 14, while Pacifico Talens was sentenced on August 19 to a 7-year prison term for helping with the shipping of the counterfeit coupons and profiting from their sales.
“This massive counterfeit coupon scheme harmed consumers, retailers, and manufacturers nationwide, and the economy at large,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh said in a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.
According to the DOJ, a few of the couple’s most high-profile retail victims in the scheme included:
- Paper products makerKimberly-Clark, which lost nearly $9 million.
- Household goods producerProctor & Gamble, which lost $2.8 million.
- Food giantUnilever, which lost $2.5 million.
- Laundry and cleaning supplies makerHenkel Corp. which lost $1.7 million.
According to the DOJ, the Talenses used messaging apps on Facebook and Telegram to find coupon users and sell them counterfeits.
Lori Talens dubbed herself “MasterChef” online and was accused of crafting counterfeit vouchers that were deemed “virtually indistinguishable from authentic coupons and were often created with inflated values, far in excess of what an authentic coupon would offer, in order to receive items from retail for free or for a greatly reduced price,” the DOJ stated.
Lori Talens then shipped the counterfeit coupons via the U.S. Postal Service and accepted payment through multiple online payment methods, including Paypal and Bitcoin, the department stated.
The scam was exposed when one of the Talens’ customers reported the couple to the Coupon Information Center, a coupon watchdog organization.
CIC officials then posed as a customer, purchased counterfeit coupons and alerted the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Federal authorities who searched the Talens’ home found nearly $1 million in counterfeit coupons, the DOJ stated.