ppod_citn-728x90
ppod_citn-320x100

Ever wonder what was going through the mind of a suburban mom-turned-coupon queenpin as she carried out one of the biggest coupon fraud schemes in history?

You’ll soon find out, as she’s about to tell her story to a national TV audience.

The ABC series The Con, narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, features real-life tales of swindlers, manipulators and con artists who lie and cheat their way to money, influence and power. The latest episode, airing this Thursday, is called “The Coupon Con” and tells the story of Lori Ann Talens of Virginia, the mastermind of a $31 million counterfeit coupon scheme that made national headlines last year.

And Talens herself even shares her own side of the story, in a jailhouse interview.

Talens is currently serving a 12-year federal prison term, while her husband and co-conspirator Pacifico was sentenced to serve more than seven years. The couple has the ignominious distinction of having received the longest, and second-longest, prison sentences ever imposed in a coupon counterfeiting case.

“We saw this story in several news outlets, and knew it would make a compelling episode,” series executive producer and showrunner John Henshaw told Coupons in the News. “It’s an incredibly relatable subject with tons of personalities.” In putting together the show, he said producers “interviewed a wide range of people, including friends of Mrs. Talens, coupon experts, as well as the FBI and other law enforcement involved with the case. We were also able to get an interview with Mrs. Talens herself from prison.”

Talens’s “Coupon Con” began back in 2016, when she “took to couponing while on bed rest after having her third child,” the episode description reads. At first, her goal was “to maintain the household budget,” but she “soon found the rush of scoring deals to be addictive.”

Eventually, even scoring deals wasn’t enough to feed her newfound addiction. She progressed to creating her own deals – by creating her own coupons. She used her background in graphic design and in running a printing business to create her own fraudulent coupons that she started selling online via the encrypted messaging app Telegram, using the name “MasterChef,” while her husband helped ship orders to customers.

ppod_672x560

Three years later, the counterfeit coupon business had blossomed into a multimillion-dollar con. But after a former customer tipped off the Coupon Information Corporation, which alerted the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which in turn brought in the FBI, it all came tumbling down.

After a search of the Talens’ Virginia Beach home, the FBI reported finding coupons “in every crevice of the house,” along with records showing they had thousands of customers who purchased $31 million worth of fake coupons over the years. The FBI said the Talens spent their proceeds on “high-end home renovations, including a new kitchen, sunroom, and in-ground swimming pool.” They also “took trips, shopped, and dined out while paying little or nothing for the things they consumed.”

“I was blinded by my own greed,” Lori Ann Talens wrote in a letter to the court last year. “I am deeply ashamed and embarrassed by the way I have acted. I have no excuse for what I have done.”

In relating Talens’s story, The Con shows just how many victims were impacted by this particular coupon con. Manufacturers lost more than $31 million, unwittingly giving away free products to thousands of customers who used Talens’s counterfeit coupons. “This kind of fraud ripples through the economy,” the FBI said last year, “and unfortunately, it is the innocent consumer that ultimately pays,” in the form of higher prices and fewer legitimate coupons.

In addition, friends and family were shocked to find out that the Talens were responsible for what federal prosecutors described as a “counterfeit coupon empire.” And the couple’s young children will be growing up without their parents, who are going to be behind bars for many years to come.

After the case came to a close, the Coupon Information Corporation expressed hope that it would serve as “a warning to coupon counterfeiters” and to those who purchase coupons online that seem too good to be true.

That was also the hope after an earlier coupon fraud case in Phoenix inspired a similar episode of a true-crime TV series several years ago. But that case also inspired last year’s big-screen comedy Queenpins, in which coupon counterfeiting was played for laughs and the fictional perpetrators didn’t pay much of a price.

As for the producers of The Con, their goal is “making an entertaining and compelling hour of television,” Henshaw said. “But if there are any takeaways to be had from the entire series, it’s that it could happen to you. Con artists are everywhere and searching for their next prey.”

So if you see coupons for sale online that seem too good to be true, don’t let yourself become a victim of – or a participant in – someone else’s con. As the Talens will tell you, the risk is far greater than the reward.

“The Coupon Con,” the latest episode of  The Con, airs on ABC-TV this Thursday, August 25th at 10pm ET/PT, and will be available Friday on demand and on Hulu.

One Comment

  1. Creating a fake coupon is child’s play. How did she get the barcode to scan correctly at the store? That is the art.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

Privacy Policy
Disclosure Policy