Minnesota Feeding Our Future employees charged in alleged $250M pandemic fraud scheme
MINNEAPOLIS (Valley News Live) - The Department of Justice announced federal criminal charges Tuesday against 47 defendants for their alleged roles in a $250 million dollar fraud scheme that exploited a federally-funded child nutrition program during the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger announced the charges at a press conference in Minneapolis Tuesday, September 20. The 47 defendants are charged across six separate indictments and three criminal informations with charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and bribery.
Officials allege the defendants devised and carried out 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 meals to children.
“In March 2020, early in the pandemic, small group of people in Minnesota had an idea and saw an opportunity. These individuals believed they could steal tens of millions of dollars from a federal child nutrition program by claiming to serve food to needy children when they were not. Their goal was to make as much money for themselves as they could while falsely claiming to feed children during the pandemic,” Luger said.
They also allege that rather than feed children, the defendants enriched themselves by fraudulently misappropriating millions of dollars in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds. Luger calls it the largest pandemic fraud in the United States.
The defendants are accused of creating dozens of shell companies to enroll in the program as Federal Child Nutrition Program sites and creating shell companies to receive and launder the proceeds of their fraudulent scheme.
The Federal Child Nutrition Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is a federally-funded program designed to provide free meals to children in need.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison issued the following statement:
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