5 People Convicted, 2 Acquitted in Minnesota $40 Million Food Fraud Scheme

A Minnesota jury convicted four men and one woman in a plan to steal more than $40 million intended for feeding needy children during the pandemic. The trial attracted national news after an attempted bribe of $120,000 in cash was brought to a juror’s home.

The guilty defendants were charged with wire fraud, conspiracy, money laundering, and federal program bribery, according to the Associated Press.

Those convicted included Abdiaziz Shafii Farah, Mohamed Jama Ismail, Abdimajid Mohamed Nur, Mukhtar Mohamed Shariff, and Hayat Mohamed Nur. Two others, Abdiwahab Maalim Aftin and Said Shafii Farah, were acquitted.

The fraud scam was carried out under the pretense of Feeding Our Future, a Minneapolis organization that obtained millions of dollars in USDA help. The defendants claimed they were running a legitimate charity that provided food.

However, prosecutors believe that the majority of the monies were spent on luxury items like as sports vehicles, jewelry, real estate, and travel rather than assisting underprivileged youngsters.

The defendants, all of East African heritage, are the first of 70 people scheduled to stand trial for what prosecutors describe as one of the greatest fraud cases exploiting the COVID-19 epidemic. Over $250 million in government monies have been stolen in total, with only $50 million recovered thus far.

This case attracted global news due to an attempted bribery of a juror. The night before closing arguments, a woman delivered a Hallmark gift bag containing $120,000 in cash to a juror’s home. She described it as a “present,” promising additional money if the jurors voted to acquit.

The juror was not at home when the incident occurred and immediately reported it to the police. The jury who accepted the bribe was discharged, as was another who learned of the effort.

US Attorney Joseph Thompson described the bribery attempt as reprehensible and compared it to scenes from gangster movies. The FBI is looking into the bribery incident, but no arrests have been made yet.

Following the revelation of the bribery attempt, the judge ordered the seven defendants to turn over their phones for examination. All seven were handcuffed and brought out of the courtroom. Bribery of jurors is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

Meanwhile, 18 other persons have pleaded guilty in connection with the larger $250 million fraud scam. Aimee Bock, the creator of Feeding Our Future, has continuously maintained her innocence while awaiting trial. She stated she never committed theft and saw no evidence of fraud among her subcontractors.

Leave a Reply