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Two Brownsville women sentenced to prison for committing nearly $1.2 million in food stamp fraud

5 months 1 week 1 day ago Wednesday, March 09 2022 Mar 9, 2022 March 09, 2022 6:19 PM March 09, 2022 in News - Local

Two women have been sent to prison following their convictions of conspiracy and committing $1.2 million in food stamp fraud, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Authorities say in May of last year, 51-year-old Ana Rioja, from Brownsville, and 55-year-old Maria Consuelo de Ureno, a legal permanent resident of Brownsville, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit and committing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera Jr. sentenced Rioja to a 30-month term of imprisonment that will be immediately followed by one year of supervised release. Ureno was sentenced to 37 months, followed by a three-year term of supervised release. 

Officials say Ureno could also face the loss of her legal status in the United States and removal proceedings after her release from prison. Judge Olvera also ordered Rioja and Ureno to pay $975,401 and $1,284,282.15 in restitution, respectively.

"Beginning in February 2016, the investigation revealed Ureno, Rioja, and other co-conspirators exchanged SNAP benefits for cash by using a point of sale device at a local meat market Rioja owned. Additionally, authorities discovered Ureno and co-conspirators conducted fraudulent transactions at Sam's Wholesale Club," the news release stated. "The investigation discovered 715 fraudulent transactions that were linked to 83 unique SNAP benefit recipients, which conspirators redeemed for cash or food. Ureno's fraudulent purchases totaled to approximately 49.1 tons of American cheese slices, 22.3 tons of pinto beans, 1.6 tons of Folgers coffee, 1.4 tons of instant mashed potatoes, and over 5,000 gallons of mayonnaise which she would sell to a partner and transport to Mexico." 

Authorities say between September 2014 and August 2019, both Rioja and Ureno conducted approximately $1.2 million in fraudulent transactions. 

The case was worked by Homeland Security Investigations Harlingen office, along with the United States Department of Agriculture. 

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