A “Cheesy” SNAP Scam Lands Two Texas Women in Prison
Two Brownsville, Texas women will serve time after being convicted of a "cheesy" SNAP scam.
Recipe for a Scam
You take 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 and you've got... a $1.2 million food stamp scam that has landed Ana Rioja and Maria Consuelo de Ureno in prison for conspiring to commit a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud.
Both Rioja and Ureno both pleaded guilty in 2021 to the fraud charges. A judge has given Rioja 30 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release, and Ureno got 37 months in prison and three years of supervised release.
That's One Expensive Recipe!
Their fines were also pretty hefty, with Riola told to pay $975,401 and Ureno ordered to pay $1,284,282.15 in restitution.
According to CBS DFW, the investigation took place in 2016 and found that between 2014 and 2019, Ureno, Rioja, and others conducted about $1.2 million in fraudulent transactions by exchanging SNAP benefits for cash.
The report revealed 715 fraudulent transactions were made and linked to 83 different SNAP accounts. That's where the 49 tons of American cheese slices and the other ridiculously high number of groceries came from. Ureno would purchase the goods, then sell them for transport to Mexico.
What is SNAP?
If you are unaware, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is set up to help provide individuals or families the food they need, but are unable to buy on their own. SNAP is overseen by the state of Texas.
Fraud occurs when unapproved purchases are made using SNAP benefits or when cash is used in exchange of the SNAP card.
The SNAP program was designed to help families in need and people trying to get back on their feet after losing their job. Sadly, it's not immune from abuse, but the sheer scale of this particular case is just insane.