One Pound, Thinly Sliced Please

Close-up detail of a man shopping in a supermarket

Two Brownsville women were sentenced to Federal prison Wednesday for their roles in a $1.2 million food stamp fraud that included but not limited to buying nearly 50 tons of cheese slices, the U.S. Department of Justice said. That is about 4,900 slices!

Ana Rioja, 51, and Maria Consuelo de Ureno, 55, pled guilty to conspiring to commit and committing fraud against the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, from September 2014 to August 2019, and they didn’t just limit themselves to cheese.

Rioja reportedly owned a meat market, called Border Meats where an unidentified group of co-conspirators would exchange SNAP benefits for cash (“cash” is not on the list of approved items to buy with food stamps) using a point-of-sale device at the store. For instance, Rioja redeemed $225.91 in food stamp benefits for $150 cash to an undercover agent. That is a nice profit for an easy transaction for a fraudster!

Ureno would than fraudulently use those food stamps benefits at Sam’s Wholesale Club to buy food that was then sold to a partner and transported to Mexico.

Product sizes at Sam’s are larger than average sizes at regular stores and Ureno’s purchased quantities were larger than average too. Purchases included at least 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.

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 restitution in full.

Great job to the Homeland Security Investigations and the Department of Agriculture for working together to stop Rioja and Ureno from continuing to fraud the Food Stamp program.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article, posted by WILX News on March 11, 2022

2 women sent to prison for committing $1.2M in food stamp fraud

By Angela Bonilla and Jordan Gartner, WILX

WACO, Texas (KWTX) – Two women were given prison sentences following convictions for $1.2 million in food stamp fraud.

Ana Rioja, 51, and Maria Consuelo de Ureno, 55, pleaded guilty on May 12, 2021, to conspiring to commit and committing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program fraud, reported by KWTX.


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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.