If someone steals a lot of money from you, but you already have a lot of money, is it really such a bad crime?

That’s what a federal judge is being asked to decide in a notorious $31 million counterfeit coupon case, as a participant in the scheme is asking for a reduced sentence – due, in part, to the fact that his victims are “multi-billion dollar companies” that suffered “no substantial financial hardship.”

Lori Ann Talens of Virginia Beach earned plenty of press back in 2021 when she was charged, convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for designing and selling tens of millions of dollars worth of counterfeit coupons. Her estranged husband Pacifico wasn’t the mastermind of the scheme, but he was also charged, convicted and sentenced to more than seven years for being an accomplice.

And now, two months after Lori Ann Talens asked for a reduction in her sentence, Pacifico Talens has now done so as well.

Both cited recent changes in the federal sentencing guidelines, which now recommend lighter sentencing ranges for nonviolent first-time criminal offenders, and allows current convicts to apply for sentence reductions. In a request sent to the judge in his case, Pacifico Talens writes that “due to a minor misdemeanor legal situation” more than a decade ago, he was not considered a first-time offender at the time of his sentencing. As a result, he says, he’s spending 16 more months behind bars than he otherwise might under the new guidelines. He’s asking the judge to reconsider his prior offense so he can be eligible for a reduced sentence.

Separately, the revised guidelines also allow for a reduced sentence if the offender did not cause “substantial financial hardship” to a victim. Despite the fact that the Talens’ scheme caused more than $31 million in losses, Pacifico Talens argues that did not constitute a “substantial financial hardship” to his victims.


Talens “agrees he caused losses to 132 companies,” he wrote in his request. “He understands that he did wrong and defrauded businesses. He is remorseful for his criminal behavior and notes that he did wrong.”

However, “the companies involved were huge multi-billion dollar corporations,” he goes on. “They did not have any substantial financial hardship as a result of (Talens’) actions… none of these companies effected (sic) were small businesses, closely held corporations, mom and pop companies or businesses, nor did it effect (sic) any specific individual’s lives in any substantial way whatsoever.”

Investigators and prosecutors who worked on the Talens case would certainly disagree. “Coupon fraud is not a harmless crime,” Brian Dugan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office, said in a statement after the two were sentenced. “This kind of fraud ripples through the economy, and unfortunately it is the innocent consumer that ultimately pays the price.”

“This massive counterfeit coupon scheme harmed consumers, retailers, and manufacturers nationwide, and the economy at large,” added Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. In requesting lengthy sentences for the couple, prosecutors noted that they had “caused over $31 million in losses to merchants and manufacturers. Such a staggering amount of money is sure to tempt other fraudsters to duplicate the Talens’s success. A significant sentence of incarceration is therefore necessary to dissuade would-be fraudsters from attempting the same fraud themselves.”

So a polite request to disregard a previous minor offense might persuade a judge to reduce the time Talens spends behind bars. A suggestion that the “multi-billion dollar corporations” he defrauded didn’t even miss the $31 million in losses for which he and his estranged wife are responsible, or that his crimes had little impact on anyone, might not go over quite as well though. Manufacturers don’t just write off their losses to coupon fraud – those losses are often recouped in the form of higher prices or fewer coupons in the future.

The judge has not yet ruled on Lori Ann Talens’ request for a reduced sentence, or on her separate request for a reduction in the $31 million in restitution she and Pacifico Talens were ordered to pay. But Pacifico Talens is hoping the judge shows him some mercy. “I have spent a great amount of time thinking about what I did wrong and where I went wrong in my life,” he wrote. “I regret what I did and how it harmed others as well as what it did to my family.”

It will be up to the judge to determine whether Talens’ thinking, reflection and regret will help him get home early – or whether his suggestion that his victims didn’t suffer that much, means he’ll spend the remaining five years of his sentence doing his thinking behind bars.

Image source: FBI

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