Judge upholds sentence in Briseño case

EDINBURG — A district court judge upheld the 30-year sentence he gave a woman who pleaded guilty to stealing almost $1 million from nearly four dozen Hidalgo County residents as part of a home building scam that targeted Spanish-speakers and those with limited income.

State District Judge Israel Ramon Jr. denied Monday Adelina Briseño’s motions for a new trial and motions for reconsideration or reduction of sentence, which her attorneys filed after Ramon sentenced her to 30 years in prison last December.

The judge was tasked with determining her sentence after Briseño, 41, decided to forego a jury trial and pleaded guilty to the first-degree property theft felony charge, which carried a possible sentence of 5 to 99 years or life in prison.

She was arrested in April 2017 and then again in August 2018 on a slew of property theft charges that the district attorney’s office ultimately consolidated into one. In total, the DA’s office counted 47 known victims of her scam.

Her attorneys argued that Ramon’s sentence was excessive and cited a number of more serious cases, including murder, in which someone received a lighter sentence.

But Ramon, in the order he signed Monday, said some of the cases “are not adequate comparisons since most are plea bargain agreements and most are not theft cases” and said he “considered the gravity of the offense and the range of punishment and possible harshness of the punishment.”

During a hearing last week, the judge noted that it was highly unlikely Briseño would spend three decades in prison as she could be eligible for early release for good behavior.

He also noted his disappointment that Briseño had shown “absolutely no remorse” during her interview with the probation officer tasked with preparing the presentence investigation (PSI) report he used to help determine the sentence.

“This was a case involving almost $964,000. There are all these victims … some of them gave their entire life savings, some of them withdrew their 401K and all this stuff,” Ramon said during the Feb. 21 hearing. “All I wanted to hear from her was to turn around (during the sentencing hearing) and tell all these victims, “I’m sorry what I did to you all … I’ll try and repay you.’ I didn’t have any of that.”

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Judge upholds sentence in Briseño case