• The women pleaded guilty last year to charges of conspiring to commit and committing SNAP fraud
  • The women exchanged SNAP benefits for cash and later used the benefits at Sam’s Wholesale Club
  • They completed 715 fraudulent transactions that were linked to the SNAP benefits from 83 people

Two Texas women have been sentenced to prison time for committing food stamp fraud amounting to $1.2 million in purchases.

Ana Rioja, 51, and Maria Consuelo de Ureno, 55, pleaded guilty on May 12, 2021, to charges of conspiring to commit and committing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud, according to a release from the office of U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

District Judge Rolando Olvera Jr. sentenced Rioja, of Brownsville, Texas, Wednesday to 30 months in prison and one year of supervised release.

Ureno, a legal permanent resident of Brownsville, was handed a 37-month term of imprisonment to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. She could also face loss of her legal status in the U.S. and removal proceedings following her release from prison.

An investigation that began in February 2016 revealed that the two women, along with other co-conspirators, were exchanging SNAP benefits for cash using a point of sale device at a local meat market Rioja owned.

The SNAP benefits were then used by Ureno and other co-conspirators at Sam’s Wholesale Club, according to the release.

The women and their co-conspirators, who were not named in the release, were found to have completed 715 fraudulent transactions that were linked to 83 unique SNAP benefit recipients.

Ureno’s fraudulent purchases of food included 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.

Ureno would then sell to a partner, and the goods would be transported to Mexico, the release said.

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

In addition to their prison sentences, the judge ordered Rioja and Ureno to pay $975,401 and $1,284,282.15 in restitution, respectively.

Ureno will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility, which will be determined in the near future.

Rioja has been remanded on bail and permitted to voluntarily surrender to jail at a date that has yet to be officially set.

Cheese Tray
Representative image of a cheese tray. Jill Wellington/Pixabay