We are in the early stages of the apparent USDA free lunch food fraud committed under the auspices of the Minnesota nonprofits including Feeding Our Future. So far, the FBI has unsealed three search warrants that have now been executed. The warrants and supporting affidavits lay out the (huge) underlying investigation along with the alleged facts of the case.
The Center of the American Experiment’s Bill Glahn has posted a handy summary with links to the local coverage of the story in “$455 million in taxpayer money to MN nonprofits named in FBI search warrants” (more here). Bill notes that, although the dollar amounts involved range into the hundreds of millions, the FBI mentions only tens of millions as allegedly missing. I have embedded the first of the three search warrant documents at the bottom via Scribd.
The January 21 St. Paul Pioneer Press story by Josh Verges may do the best job of providing the background and allegations. It opens this way:
A Twin Cities nonprofit and a web of business operators stole tens of millions of dollars in federal funds that were supposed to help feed needy children while schools were closed during the coronavirus pandemic, according to court records.
More than 200 agents of the FBI and other state and federal agencies raided over a dozen locations Thursday, including the St. Anthony offices of Feeding Our Future and the Rosemount home of its director, Aimee Bock.
The FBI alleges in search warrant affidavits that Feeding Our Future, the state’s largest independent sponsor of federal food programs, submitted false reimbursement records and conspired with business owners who stole and laundered funds as part of a “massive fraud” involving shell companies, kickbacks and dozens of bank accounts.
“The companies and their owners received tens of millions of dollars in federal funds for use in providing nutritious meals to underprivileged children and adults,” an FBI agent wrote. “Almost none of this money was used to feed children. Instead, the participants in the scheme misappropriated the money and used it to purchase real estate, cars and other luxury items.”
No criminal charges have been filed, and the FBI said it did not arrest anyone Thursday [January 20].
The Minnesota Department of Education on Thursday moved to terminate Feeding Our Future as a sponsor and cut off funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program.
The department also suspended reimbursements for a second sponsor, Partners in Nutrition — also known as Partners in Quality Care — based on information in the search warrants. Bock used to work for Partners in Nutrition.
The two federal food programs typically provide meals for needy children during summer, when schools are closed, as well as meals and snacks for kids in child care and afterschool programs.
But early in the pandemic, when many schools closed to keep the virus in check, the USDA broadened eligibility for its food programs, letting restaurants participate, authorizing meals in higher-income neighborhoods and allowing for the distribution of multi-day packs of food to be eaten off-site.
Meanwhile, many employees in the Minnesota Department of Education, which oversees the food programs, were ordered to work from home.
“According to MDE officials, this left the program vulnerable to fraud and abuse,” the FBI wrote.
The proprietor of Feeding Our Future is Aimee Bock. She denies the allegations of fraud and characterizes the investigation as “an attack on a community,” presumably the Somali community.
Apart from Bock, the beneficiaries of the misappropriated nonprofit funds named in the investigation appear to be almost entirely Somali, so we have the inevitable Ilhan Omar connection. Yesterday Alpha News reported that Omar’s campaign committee and leadership PAC has received nearly $10,000 from Safari Restaurant. Alpha notes that Safari “was reimbursed for $15 million it allegedly spent serving meals to hungry children between May and November 2020. The restaurant claims it fed 5,000 children a day, more than the St. Paul public school system.”
Speaking on her own behalf, Omar has distanced herself from the case. The Star Tribune quotes Omar: “Anyone who participated in this scheme must be held accountable,” said Omar. “It’s shameful that children who struggle with food insecurity paid the price for this nonprofit’s alleged actions.” (The linked story also provides useful background on the case.)
The Pioneer Press story identifies nonprofit principals who took in millions of federal funds. One such is Guhaad [Hashi] Said, whose “Advance Youth Athletic Development, aka Central Avenue Lofts, [received] $3.2 million.” This should be a red flag for anyone who has followed the Omar saga on Power Line (avatar at right).
Preya Samsundar first reported on Hashi in the 2016 Alpha News story “A community forced into silence.” In 2019 I wrote about David Steinberg’s PJ Media column “Ilhan Omar’s Husband No Longer Works for Minneapolis Councilwoman. Sources Say Omar Asked for Him to Be Fired.” PJ Media appended this easily overlooked footnote to explain David’s use of anonymous sources:
Anonymous sources used in this article have provided information to PJM over the past two years that all proved to be verifiable through publicly available legal documents, databases, professional background checks, and time-stamped social media posts. Sources have expressed fear of threats by Omar and her supporters — and we have been able to verify the threats. See Preya Samsundar and David Steinberg’s coverage of Guhaad Hashi, who was convicted of a stabbing shortly before becoming a key member of Omar’s campaign — during which he posted several threats, including a video, towards local Somalis who spoke up about Omar.
My own sources are well aware of him. The footnote applies to my sources as well. One of them provided me the mug shot of “Guhaad H Said” (below). I am advised that “[t]here is not a shred of doubt that it is [Omar’s friend Hashi]. He is the agency owner, the address for the group is his home address.”