Mr. Talens profited from the operation and helped by shipping packages of coupons “and performing other administrative tasks at the direction of his wife,” according to prosecutors.
But it was one of the fraud victims, described in court records as a “coupon enthusiast,” who began to unravel the scheme. The enthusiast reported the couple to the Coupon Information Center, a nonprofit that works against fraud.
The group bought coupons from the Talens, confirmed they were counterfeit, and contacted the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for further investigating.
After executing a search warrant at the couple’s home, federal agents seized nearly $1 million worth of counterfeit coupons. On Ms. Talens’s computer, they found images of more than 13,000 “separate and distinct counterfeit coupon designs,” court documents said. Investigators described the coupons as “Frankenstein counterfeits” in that they had images, text and bar codes from various manufacturers.
“Despite Hollywood’s recent portrayal of coupon fraud as a comedy or simply ‘bending the rules,’ it is a serious matter,” the center’s executive director, Bud Miller, said in a statement. He said the sentencing of Ms. Talens showed “coupon counterfeiting is generally a felony level offense, the penalties of which may include years in prison, total loss of assets, lifelong restitution orders, and reduced job opportunities. The perpetrator’s families often suffer as well.”
Mr. Parekh, the U.S. attorney, said that the scheme “harmed consumers, retailers and manufacturers nationwide, and the economy at large.”
In addition to mail fraud, Ms. Talens also pleaded guilty to wire fraud and health care fraud that stemmed from a separate scheme that involved defrauding Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from November 2015 to February 2020.