“She trained herself in the different techniques she needed to manipulate barcodes to make these coupons work,” said Special Agent Shannon Brill in the FBI release. Talens, who is considered the mastermind of the scheme, would create fake coupons with discounts “near or even over” an item’s retail value.
Talens didn’t use the fraudulent coupons for herself. The FBI said she sold them to subscribers that found her on social media and communicated with them using an encrypted messaging app. Talens was paid more than $400,000 in digital currencies such as bitcoin and sometimes “exchanged coupons for stolen rolls of the special paper stores use to print out coupons,” the agency said.
The three-year scheme was discovered by the Coupon Information Corporation, which received a tip that someone was making and mailing fraudulent coupons. One group of manufacturers said it lost $125,000 from fake coupons linked to Talens.
In September, Talens was sentenced to 12 years in prison for “perpetrating a counterfeit coupon fraud scheme” that amounted to $32 million in losses for retailers and manufacturers, according to the Department of Justice. Her husband was sentenced to 7 years in prison because he was aware of and profited from the scheme.