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Former USDA Agent Sentenced in Fraud Scheme
USAgNet - 04/15/2019

Barbara Serna Salinas, a 43-year-old former loan officer for the USDA's Farm Service Agency in Uvalde, Texas, was sentenced to two years in federal prison for a farm loan fraud scheme, announced United States Attorney John Bash.

During sentencing yesterday in Del Rio, U.S. District Judge Alia Moses also ordered Serna to pay $166,744.20 in restitution to the USDA and be placed on supervised release for a period of five years after completing her prison term.

In June 2018, Serna pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement on a loan application. By pleading guilty, Serna admitted she issued multiple fraudulent FSA loans from May 2011 through June 2016. Furthermore, in exchange for approving the loans, Serna accepted cash or other forms of payment from her co-defendants, Ruben James Valadez, age 44 of Uvalde, and Eric Torres Neira, age 44 of San Antonio. According to court documents, a review of USDA loans approved by Serna after 2011 identified several to Neira and Valadez, which totaled more than $150,000.

On December 4, Judge Moses sentenced Neira to five months imprisonment and ordered him to pay restitution to the USDA, joint and severally with Serna, in the amount of $142,961.94. Valadez is currently awaiting sentencing on October 2. Neira and Valadez pleaded guilty to the same false statement charge--Neira on March 29, 2018; Valadez on April 26, 2018.

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