Brownsville Women Face Prison Time for $1.2 Million Supermarket Fraud Scheme
Two Brownsville women will serve time in prison after being found guilty of $1.2 million in food stamp fraud.
Back in February 2016, authorities learned of 51-year-old Ana Rioja and 55-year-old Maria Consuelo de Ureno after an investigation at a Sam's Wholesale Club in the area. Rioja, Ureno, and other unnamed suspects were caught exchanging Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for money.
The investigation further uncovered 715 fraudulent transactions at the Sam's Club that were tied to 83 different SNAP recipients. With the money, Rioja and Ureno illegally purchased approximately $1.2 million worth of groceries consisting of nearly 50 tons of American cheese, 22 tons of pinto beans, 1.6 tons of coffee, and other items. The groceries would then be sold and transported to Mexico.
Rioja and Ureno were found guilty in May 2021 of conspiring to commit and committing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program fraud.
Rioja was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison, then 1 year of supervised release. Ureno was sentenced to just over 3 years in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release. Additionally, the judge ordered Rioja and Ureno to pay $975,401 and $1,284,282 in restitution, respectively.
Authorities believe this scheme took place between September 2014 and August 2019.