Why did only one of the notorious Phoenix coupon counterfeiters get prison time for their $40 million scheme, and only two years at that? And why was their restitution order so low? Why was the “PurpleLotus” sentenced to just about three years in prison and ordered to pay less than $75,000 in restitution for counterfeiting more than a million dollars worth of coupons?

And why, in contrast, is convicted coupon counterfeiter Lori Ann Talens serving a lengthy 12 years behind bars and trying to figure out how she’s going to pay a whopping $31 million in restitution?

That’s what Lori Ann Talens herself would like to know.

She’s also curious to know when, if ever, her alleged accomplices are going to be charged, and ordered to pay their share of that eight-figure restitution order.

Talens, of Virginia Beach, was sentenced in 2021 for running a $31 million counterfeit coupon operation, which prosecutors at the time called “one of the biggest counterfeit coupon schemes in history.” Coming just one week after the release of the big-screen counterfeit coupon comedy Queenpins, her real-life sentence generated plenty of media attention and public interest at the time, and her case continues to be a curiosity today.

Now, weeks after asking the judge in her case to reduce her sentence, Talens is asking for a reduction in the amount of money she’s been ordered to pay. In paperwork she filled out herself, from prison, by hand, because “my attorney has been uncommunicative and unresponsive to my requests,” she said not all of the coupons in her possession at the time of her arrest were fake, and others who helped her create coupons that actually were fake, have not been held responsible the way she has.


“Over 50% of the barcodes on my computer were not sourced by me,” she wrote. Investigators at the time of her arrest said they found templates for more than 13,000 different counterfeit coupons for at least 132 different brands on Talens’s home computer. But many of them, Talens claims, were created by others in her online couponing groups. As part of her plea deal, “I provided a list of all the other sources in which the fraud coupons on my computer were created/sourced by,” she wrote, but “none of the other ‘known’ sources of creating counterfeits have been prosecuted.”

She was “advised to cooperate” with authorities when signing the plea deal, she went on, with the understanding that the restitution she and her accomplice husband were ordered to pay would be “shared” with “numerous” others. “I was cooperative and provided assistance,” she said, but has nothing to show for it.

Talens goes on to argue that the $31 million figure – regardless of who has to pay it – is far too high. “I was sentenced based on unredeemed coupons, as well as redeemed and rejected,” she wrote. “Large amounts that were not paid out and also legitimate coupons.” $31 million may have been the face value of the coupons that investigators discovered, she argued, but many of them were never redeemed in stores. Plus, “scans of newspaper coupons and legit coupons that were in my computer as templates” were counted as part of the $31 million, she claimed. “So the actual losses were not accurate.”

Finally, following up on her earlier request to have her 12-year prison sentence reduced, she cited the examples of other high-profile counterfeiters who preceded her, in asking for her sentence to be “aligned with other coupon fraud cases.” She mentioned Beau Wattigney of New Orleans, who called himself “PurpleLotus” online. He was sentenced back in 2016 to 41 months in prison and ordered to pay $74,855 in restitution, for creating and selling more than a million dollars worth of counterfeit coupons. She also mentioned the three Phoenix women whose arrests in 2012 inspired the movie Queenpins. Only the ringleader, Robin Ramirez, served two years of prison time, while her accomplices got probation, and their $1.3 million restitution order was a fraction of the value of the coupons they were accused of counterfeiting and selling.

Talens said she “only” made about $300,000 from her scheme, and she can’t be expected to survive outside of prison if 100% of any income she receives must go toward paying off $31 million in losses her counterfeit coupons were said to have caused manufacturers – nor can she make much progress on paying it off, if she’s behind bars for years to come.

According to federal sentencing guidelines, “within one year of sentencing, the court may reduce a sentence if the defendant, after sentencing, provided substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person.” Talens argues she has provided plenty of assistance in accordance with those guidelines – but there have been no further prosecutions. That’s on the government, she suggests, and she shouldn’t be forced to pay the price for the fact that the investigation seemed to go no further than her and her husband.

In the end, someone has to pay for the many counterfeit coupons Talens created that made their way through the system, whether it’s manufacturers, retailers, Talens, her accomplices – or all of us, in the form of higher prices. Talens may argue her sentence isn’t fair as compared to other coupon counterfeiters who got off easier. Others may argue the other sentences weren’t fair, and hers actually was. It will be up to a judge to decide, as Talens waits to find out just how big a price she’ll ultimately have to pay.

Image source: FBI

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