Also known as Aurora Cuara Ochoa, the defendant pleaded guilty to a single count of an eight-count indictment brought against her by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The Court dismissed counts one through seven of the original indictment, and the conviction was signed Oct. 19, 2021.
Cuara, of Lemoore, was reported to be 38 at the time of her arraignment before a federal grand jury in May 2018. Although she faced a maximum statutory penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, a U.S. Court for the Eastern District of California sentenced Cuara to six months in a federal prison.
After completing the six-month prison sentence, the defendant is ordered to serve under supervised release for 36 months, the criminal court stated in its judgment.
Cuara waived her rights to appeal after pleading guilty to a single felony count of “Theft from an Indian Tribal Organization.”
The case stems from an investigation of Cuara, who served as director of the Santa Rosa Rancheria Department of Education.
The Tachi Yokut Tribe owns and operates the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino, part of the Santa Rosa Rancheria in Lemoore.
In accordance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), the case fell under federal jurisdiction. Consequently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and DOJ handled the original eight-count indictment against Cuara.
She was accused of submitting falsified documents including fabricated schedules, grade reports and receipts, according to a Hanford Sentinel article published May 22, 2018.
“While overseeing the reimbursement program, Cuara allegedly submitted false documentation in order to receive reimbursement for tuition, child care, mileage and other costs of attending college between 2012 and 2016, even though she was not a student,” the Hanford Sentinel reported nearly four years ago.
Although Cuara pleaded guilty to only one count of the original indictment, a U.S. District Judge ordered her to pay $311,000 restitution in compliance with federal code and pursuant to her plea agreement.
“The defendant shall surrender for service of sentence at the institution designated by the Bureau of Prisons … on 1/13/2022,” the order states.
Upon release from prison, Cuara must not possess a controlled substance and must refrain from any unlawful use of a controlled substance, U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd ordered.
“You must submit to one drug test within 15 days of release from imprisonment and at least two (2) periodic drug tests thereafter, not to exceed four (4) drug tests per month,” the court instructed Cuara under its “Mandatory Conditions.”
In addition, Cuara “must cooperate in the collection of DNA as directed by the probation officer.”