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Prison For Texas Women Convicted Of Fraud After Stealing Tons Of Cheese Slices

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) — Two women from Texas are headed to prison after being convicted of conspiracy and committing $1.2 million in food stamp fraud.

Ana Rioja and Maria Consuelo de Ureno, both residents of Brownsville, pleaded guilty in 2021 of conspiring to commit and committing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud.

On March 10 a district judge sentenced Rioja to 30 months in prison to be immediately followed by one year of supervised release. Ureno received 37 months followed by a three-year-term of supervised release. Ureno could also face loss of her legal status in the United States. The judge also ordered Rioja and Ureno to pay $975,401 and $1,284,282.15 in restitution, respectively.

The convictions stem from a 2016 investigation that 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. Authorities also discovered Ureno and co-conspirators conducted fraudulent transactions at Sam's Wholesale Club.

The investigation discovered 715 fraudulent transactions that were linked to 83 unique SNAP benefit recipients. Ureno's fraudulent purchases totaled more than 49 tons of American cheese slices, 22 tons of pinto beans, 1.6 tons of 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.

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

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