Justice charges 47 in $250 million Minnesota child food aid scheme
The Justice Department announced today it has filed federal criminal charges against 47 defendants for their alleged roles in a $250 million fraud scheme that exploited a federally funded Agriculture Department child nutrition program in Minnesota during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 47 defendants are charged across six separate indictments and three criminal informations with charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and bribery.
In a lengthy news release, the Justice Department explained:
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the USDA 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 for off-site food distribution to children outside of educational programs.
“Aimee Bock was the founder and executive director of Feeding Our Future, a nonprofit organization that was a sponsor participating in the Federal Child Nutrition Program. The indictments charge Bock with overseeing a massive fraud scheme carried out by sites under Feeding Our Future’s sponsorship. Feeding Our Future went from receiving and disbursing approximately $3.4 million in federal funds in 2019 to nearly $200 million in 2021.
“As part of the charged 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 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.”
“These indictments, alleging the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme charged to date, underscore the Department of Justice’s sustained commitment to combating pandemic fraud and holding accountable those who perpetrate it,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “In partnership with agencies across government, the Justice Department will continue to bring to justice those who have exploited the pandemic for personal gain and stolen from American taxpayers.”
“Today’s indictments describe an egregious plot to steal public funds meant to care for children in need in what amounts to the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme yet,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The defendants went to great lengths to exploit a program designed to feed underserved children in Minnesota amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, fraudulently diverting millions of dollars designated 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 attempt to enrich themselves through fraudulent means.”
“This was a brazen scheme of staggering proportions,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger for the District of Minnesota. “These 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. I commend the work of the skilled investigators and prosecutors who unraveled the lies, deception, and mountains of false documentation to bring this complex case to light.”
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