A woman will serve 12 years’ jail for swindling more than $42 million from businesses by using counterfeit coupons she created.
Lori Ann Talens, 41, from Virginia Beach, in the US state of Virginia, managed to swindle millions through a heap of coupons she made through her background in computer design.
The FBI said she had designs for about 13,000 products.
FBI Special Agent Shannon Brill said Talens “trained herself in the different techniques she needed to manipulate barcodes to make these coupons work”.
Ms Brill and postal inspector Jason Thomasson, who also worked the case, said Talens often used coupons for almost any store she wanted with some near or over the value of the item of purchase.
“She had coupons for $24.99 off a $25 box of diapers. And it would work,” Mr Thomasson said.
“And you’d have people walking out the door with those diapers for almost nothing.”
Ms Brill added retail staff never ask if a coupon is authentic either as it’s “not their job”.
The fakes would also go undiscovered for weeks or months, the FBI said.
“If the coupons are rejected, if they are counterfeit, then the retailer doesn’t get paid back for them,” Ms Brill said.
“But that whole process takes a lot of time. By the time a coupon gets identified as being fraudulent or fake, that coupon has already been used who knows how many times.”
Talens also sold the coupons to subscribers through social media.
“Each new buyer had to send a copy of their ID and provide evidence that they had used counterfeit coupons before—a way of making sure her buyers accepted some amount of risk in the scheme,” the FBI said.
“Talens accepted payment through popular payment applications or by virtual currency and sometimes exchanged coupons for stolen rolls of the special paper stores use to print out coupons.”
Subscribers paid her about $530,000 over a period of three years. She used the money to pay for home renovations including a sunroom and a new kitchen.
In the house, Mr Thommason said fake coupons worth more than $1.3 million were found in the home.
"There were coupons in every jacket pocket; they were stuffed in her vehicles,” he said.
Talen’s husband Pacifico was also jailed in the scheme and will serve more than seven years before bars.
She was also forced to pay back the $42 million in restitution.
However, authorities said that is likely a conservative estimate of how much businesses lost from her scheme.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.