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Nonprofit Feeding Our Future and 200+ Meal Sites in Minnesota Perpetrated the Largest COVID-19 Fraud Scheme in the Nation

Non-profit Feeding Our Future and 200+ Food Sites in Minnesota Conducted Nation’s Largest COVID-19 Fraud Scheme To see also : Master of Science in Engineering Management | NU.

The Department of Justice today announced federal criminal charges against 47 defendants for their alleged roles in a $250 million fraud scheme that exploited a government-funded child nutrition program during the COVID-19 pandemic .

“These indictments, which allege the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme charged to date, underscore the Department of Justice’s sustained commitment to combating pandemic fraud and holding perpetrators accountable ,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “In partnership with agencies across government, the Department of Justice will continue to bring to justice those who have exploited the pandemic for personal gain and stolen from American taxpayers.”

“Today’s charges describe a massive plot to steal public funds intended to care for needy children in what amounts to the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme to date,” said the Director of -FBI Christopher Wray. “The defendants sought to exploit a program designed to feed underserved children in Minnesota amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and fraudulently diverted millions of dollars earmarked for the program for their own personal gain. These charges send the message that the FBI and our law enforcement partners remain vigilant and will vigorously pursue those who seek to enrich themselves through fraudulent means.”

“This was a blatant scheme of shocking proportions,” said US Attorney Andrew M. Luger for the District of Minnesota. “These defendants exploited a program intended to provide nutritious food to children in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, they prioritized their own greed, stealing more than a quarter of a billion dollars in federal funds to buy luxury cars, homes, jewelry, and coastal resort property overseas. I commend the work of the skilled investigators and prosecutors who uncovered the lies, deception, and mountains of false documentation to bring this complex case to light.”

The 47 defendants are indicted on six separate counts and three criminal information charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and bribery.

As described in the charging documents, the defendants devised and executed a massive scheme to defraud the Federal Child Nutrition Program. The defendants obtained, misappropriated and laundered millions of dollars in program funds that were intended as reimbursements for the cost of serving food to children. The defendants exploited program changes intended to ensure that underserved children receive adequate nutrition during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than feeding the children, the defendants enriched themselves by fraudulently misappropriating millions of dollars in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds.

The Federal Child Nutrition Program, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is a federally funded program designed to provide free meals to children in need. The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers the program nationwide by distributing federal funds to state governments. In Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) administers and oversees the Federal Child Nutrition Program. Meals funded by the Federal Child Nutrition Program are served by “sites.” Each site participating in the program must be sponsored by an authorized sponsoring organization. Sponsors must submit an application to MDE for each site. Sponsors are also responsible for monitoring each of their sites and preparing reimbursement requests for their sites. The USDA then provides MDE federal reimbursement funds on a per-meal basis. MDE provides those funds to the sponsoring agency which, in turn, pays reimbursements to the sites under its sponsorship. The sponsoring agency keeps 10 to 15 percent of the funds as an administrative fee.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the USDA has waived some of the standard requirements for participation in the Federal Child Nutrition Program. Among other things, the USDA allowed for-profit restaurants to participate in the program, as well as allowed off-site distribution of food to children outside of educational programs.

Aimee Bock was the founder and executive director of Feeding Our Future, a nonprofit sponsor participating in the Federal Child Nutrition Program. The indictments accuse Bock of overseeing a massive fraud scheme carried out by sites sponsored by Feeding Our Future. Feeding Our Future has gone from receiving and disbursing approximately $3.4 million in federal funds in 2019 to nearly $200 million in 2021.

As part of the billed scheme, Feeding Our Future employees recruited individuals and entities to open Federal Child Nutrition Program sites throughout the state of Minnesota. These sites, created and operated by the defendants and others, fraudulently claimed that they were serving meals to thousands of children every day within just days or weeks of being formed. The defendants created dozens of shell companies to enroll in the program as Federal Child Nutrition Program sites. The defendants also created shell companies to receive and launder the proceeds of their fraudulent scheme.

To carry out the scheme, the defendants also created and presented false documentation. They submitted fraudulent meal count sheets to document the number of children and meals served at each site. The defendants presented false invoices claiming to document the purchase of food to be served to the children at the sites. The defendants also submitted false attendance rosters with the aim of listing the names and ages of the children who receive meals at the sites every day. These rosters were fabricated and created using fake names. For example, one roster was created using names from a website called “www.listofrandomnames.com.” Because the program only reimbursed for meals served to children, other defendants used an Excel formula to insert a random age between seven and 17 years into the age column of the rosters.

Despite knowing the claims were fraudulent, Feeding Our Future submitted the fraudulent claims to MDE and then released the fraudulently obtained Federal Child Nutrition Program funds to individuals and entities involved in the scheme.

In exchange for sponsoring these sites’ fraudulent participation in the program, Feeding Our Future received more than $18 million in administrative fees to which it was not entitled. In addition to administrative fees, Feeding Our Future employees solicited and received bribes and kickbacks from individuals and companies sponsored by Feeding Our Future. Many of these kickbacks were paid in cash or disguised as “consulting fees” paid to shell companies created by Feeding Our Future employees to make them appear legitimate.

When the MDE attempted to conduct necessary surveillance regarding the number of sites and the amount of claims being submitted, Bock and Feeding Our Future gave false assurances that they were monitoring the sites under its sponsorship and that s -sites were serving meals as stated. When MDE employees pressed Bock for clarification, Bock accused MDE of discrimination and unfairly scrutinizing Feeding Our Future sites. When MDE rejected the Feeding Our Future site applications, Bock and Feeding Our Future filed suit accusing MDE of rejecting the site applications due to discrimination in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

In total, Feeding Our Future opened more than 250 sites across the state of Minnesota and fraudulently obtained and disbursed more than $240 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds. The defendants used the proceeds of their fraudulent scheme to purchase luxury vehicles, residential and commercial real estate in Minnesota as well as property in Ohio and Kentucky, real estate in Kenya and Turkey, and to finance travel international.

“The exploitation of a government program intended to feed children at a time of national crisis is the epitome of greed,” said Special Agent in Charge Justin Campbell of the IRS Criminal Investigation, Field Office of Chicago. “As alleged, the accused accused in this case chose to enrich themselves at the expense of the children. Instead of feeding the future, they chose to steal from the future. IRS – Criminal Investigation is pleased to join our law enforcement partners in holding these defendants accountable.”

United States v. Aimee Marie Bock, et al., 22-CR-223 (NEB/TNL), charged 14 defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery of federal programs, bribery of ‘ federal programs, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering for their roles in the Federal Child Nutrition Program fraud scheme. In April 2020, Safari Restaurant enrolled in the Federal Child Nutrition Program under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future. The owners of Safari Restaurant and their co-conspirators opened additional sites throughout the state of Minnesota, as well as dozens of shell companies. During the fraud scheme, the defendants claimed to have served millions of meals. Based on their fraudulent claims, the defendants received more than $32 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds, which they misappropriated for their own personal benefit, including expenditures such as vehicles, property real estate, and travel.

United States v. Abdiaziz Shafii Farah, et al., 22-CR-124 (NEB/TNL), charges eight defendants with conspiracy, wire fraud, bribery of federal programs, and money laundering for their roles in the scheme ‘fraud of the Federal Child Nutrition Program. In April 2020, Empire Cuisine and Market LLC enrolled in the Federal Child Nutrition Program under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future and Sponsor A. The owners of Empire Cuisine and Market LLC and co-conspirators their have opened additional sites throughout the state of Minnesota, as well as dozens of shell companies. During the fraud scheme, the defendants claimed to have served millions of meals. Based on their fraudulent claims, the defendants received more than $40 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds, which they misappropriated for their own personal benefit, including expenditures such as vehicles, travel, real estate , and property in Kenya.

United States v. Qamar Ahmed Hassan, et al., 22-CR-224 (NEB/TNL), charges eight defendants with conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering for their roles in the Federal Program fraud scheme of Child Nutrition. In August 2020, S & S Catering Inc. enrolled in the Federal Child Nutrition Program under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future. The owner of S & S Catering and other co-conspirators opened sites throughout the Twin Cities and claimed to have served millions of meals. Based on their fraudulent claims, the defendants received more than $18 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds, which they misappropriated for their own personal benefit, including expenditures such as vehicles and real estate.

United States v. Haji Osman Salad, et al., 22-CR-226 (NEB/TNL), charges five defendants with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering for their roles in the scheme of ‘ fraud of the Federal Child Nutrition Program. . The owner of Haji’s Kitchen LLC and other co-conspirators enrolled in the Federal Child Nutrition Program under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future and Sponsor A. The co-conspirators opened sites throughout the state of ‘Minnesota, as well as multiple shell companies. During the fraud scheme, the defendants claimed to have served millions of meals. Based on their fraudulent claims, the defendants received more than $25 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds, which they misappropriated for their own personal benefit, including expenditures such as vehicles, property real estate, and travel.

United States v. Liban Yasin Alishire, et al., 22-CR-222 (NEB/TML), charges three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit federal programs, bribery of federal programs, and money laundering for their roles in the Federal Child Nutrition Program fraud scheme. The owner of Community Enhancement Services Inc. and other co-conspirators opened multiple sites and shell companies in the JigJiga Business Center in Minneapolis. During the fraud scheme, the defendants claimed to have served hundreds of thousands of meals. Based on their fraudulent claims, the defendants received more than $1.6 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds, which they misappropriated for their own personal benefit, including expenditures such as vehicles, real estate , and a beachfront property in Kenya.

United States v. Sharmake Jama, et al., 22-CR-225 (NEB/TNL), charges six defendants with wire fraud, bribery of federal programs, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering for their roles in Federal Child Nutrition. Program fraud scheme. In September 2020, Brava Restaurant & Café LLC, a site located in Rochester, Minnesota, registered in the Federal Child Nutrition Program under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future. The owners of the Brava Restaurant & Café and other co-conspirators claimed to have served millions of meals from Brava Restaurant & Café and falsely claimed to have a contract with Rochester Public Schools. Based on their fraudulent claims, the defendants received approximately $4.3 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds, which they misappropriated for their own personal benefit, including expenditures such as vehicles, real estate, and property on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.

The following defendants are named in United States v. Aimee Marie Bock, et al. charge:

The following defendants are named in United States v. Abdiaziz Shafii Farah, et al. charge:

The following defendants are named in United States v. Qamar Ahmed Hassan, et al. charge:

The following defendants are named in United States v. Haji Osman Salad, et al. charge:

The following defendants are named in United States v. Liban Yasin Alishire, et al. charge:

The following defendants are named in United States v. Sharmake Jama, et al. charge:

US Attorney Andrew Luger thanked the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the US Postal Inspection Service for their cooperation and skilled investigative work in bringing these charges. -accusations.

Assistant United States Attorneys Joseph H. Thompson, Harry M. Jacobs, Chelsea A. Walcker, Matthew S. Ebert, and Joseph S. Teirab for the District of Minnesota are prosecuting the case. Assistant US Attorney Craig Baune is handling the seizure and asset forfeiture.

An accusation is simply an allegation. All accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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