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A former reality TV star-turned-coupon counterfeiter has been given one last chance to stay out of trouble – or she could find herself behind bars for the next six years.

Mellie Lee, onetime star of the TLC reality show Gypsy Sisters, was sentenced in Fayette County, Kentucky on Thursday, two months after pleading guilty to felony theft and forgery charges in connection with a coupon scam at Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores.

A judge sentenced Lee to six years in prison, but suspended the sentence and placed her on probation for the next five years. As long as she stays out of trouble, she won’t see the inside of a prison cell – but if she runs afoul of the law at any time during her probation, she could go straight to prison to serve out her full six-year sentence.

Either way, she’ll have to come up with $18,075 in restitution, payable to Toys “R” Us.

Lee’s troubles began shortly before Christmas 2017, when she and her ex-husband George Lee were arrested – she in Louisiana, and he in Kentucky. The two were accused of traveling to various Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores in the region, using what police described as “coupons which appeared to the cashiers as being legitimate Toys ‘R’ Us/Babies ‘R’ Us coupons for discounts on Visa gift cards”.

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The coupons were believed to be fake mobile coupons displaying a bar code that takes dollars off your total with no actual purchase required. So every time the “coupon” is scanned, it results in a negative balance that can be applied toward a free gift card.

Fayette County authorities say the Lees used this technique at one store 174 times in five separate transactions, to get more than $1,700 in gift cards. In total, the couple was accused of defrauding local Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores out of $18,075 – the amount that Lee was ordered to pay back at her sentencing.

And that was just in Fayette County. At one point, Lee faced similar charges in another Kentucky county, as well as in Tennessee, before those charges were dropped.

Mellie and her sisters had a relatively brief run as reality TV stars, with their show Gypsy Sisters airing just 32 episodes from 2013 to 2015. Fickle reality show fans who were once glued to increasingly outrageous TLC series like Gypsy Sisters, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Extreme Couponing have long since moved on to the next thing. But the real-life adventures of Mellie and her kin remain popular in some quarters online, where several fan groups continue to discuss their off-camera exploits.

“I hope for her sake that she gets it together,” a commenter in one group wrote about Mellie recently. “Enough trouble finds you, but she goes and looks for it!” another commented. Others, not quoted here, offer a much harsher assessment of Mellie’s choices in life.

Now, she will have to face the consequences of at least some of those choices. And if she doesn’t make better choices in the years to come, she may end up having six long years behind bars to think it over.

Image sources: TLC / Fayette County Jail / Toys “R” Us

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