47 people in the U.S state of Minnesota have been charged for their alleged roles in a $250 million fraud scheme that exploited a federally-funded child nutrition program during the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger for the District of Minnesota said the defendants exploited a program designed to provide nutritious food to needy children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Instead, they prioritized their own greed, stealing more than a quarter of a billion dollars in federal funds to purchase luxury cars, houses, jewelry, and coastal resort property abroad,” said Luger.
The defendants are charged across six separate indictments and three criminal informations with charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and bribery, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.
“The defendants obtained, misappropriated, and laundered millions of dollars in program funds that were intended as reimbursements for the cost of serving meals to children,” the department says.
Aimee Bock, the founder and executive director of Feeding Our Future, a nonprofit organization that was a sponsor participating in the Federal Child Nutrition Program, is among those who have been charged. The 41-year-old was charged with overseeing a massive fraud scheme carried out by sites under Feeding Our Future’s sponsorship.
“…Feeding Our Future employees recruited individuals and entities to open Federal Child Nutrition Program sites throughout the state of Minnesota,” the Justice Department said.
These sites, created and operated by the defendants and others, fraudulently claimed to be serving meals to thousands of children a 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,” the department adds.
To carry out the scheme, the defendants also created and submitted fraudulent meal count sheets purporting to document the number of children and meals served at each site, false invoices purporting to document the purchase of food to be served to children at the sites, and fake attendance rosters purporting to list the names and ages of the children receiving meals at the sites each day, according to the Justice Department.
Despite knowing the claims were fraudulent, Feeding Our Future submitted the fraudulent claims to MDE and then disbursed the fraudulently obtained Federal Child Nutrition Program funds to the 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 total, Feeding Our Future opened more than 250 sites throughout 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 fund international travel,” the Justice Department added.