Two Tex-Mex border-area women got jail time after illegally acquiring nearly 150 tons of food through a federal food stamp program and reselling the goods in Mexico, netting more than $2 million.
The women, who are both from the border town of Brownsville, Texas, 51-year-old Ana Rioja and 55-year-old Maria Consuela de Ureño were sentenced to 30 and 37 months, respectively.
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Officials say that between September of 2014 and August of 2019, the duo obtained and resold nearly 150 tons of food obtained by utilizing food stamps provided via 83 accomplices granted through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
De Ureño also owns a meat market in Brownsville called Border Meats. The illegal voucher conversions took place after which they would buy food at the local Sam’s Club before vendoring the goods across the border in Mexico.
5,000 gallons of mayonnaise
According to a March 9 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, Rioja and Ureño obtained “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.”
The pair admitted to having sold the foodstuffs in Mexico over the course of some 715 transactions totalling $2.26 million.
The case came to light in 2016 when an undercover agent exchanged $225.91 worth of coupons for $150 in cash from the pair.
On May 12, 2021, both plead guilty to one count each for SNAP fraud in conspiring to and defrauding aid programs, and apart from their jail time will be required to refund the monies embezzled during the five years their schema ran.
On March 9, a judge sentenced Rioja to 30 months in prison, plus one-year probation, and $975,401 in reimbursement. Ureno heard the judge handing down 37 months in jail, three years of monitored release, and $1.28 million in repayment.
Rioja was released on bond and will voluntarily surrender at a to-be-determined near future date.
Ureño, already in custody, is a Mexican citizen who holds a permanent residence permit. After serving her sentence, she may face deportation to Mexico.