Federal prosecutors allege the nonprofit Feeding Our Future ran the nation’s largest pandemic fraud scheme by cashing in more than $250 million intended to feed children in need, most of whom did not have actually been served.
Here’s how federal authorities say it happened, according to criminal charges:
1. Wheel greasing: Feeding Our Future, led by founder and executive director Aimee Bock, is accused of accepting kickbacks and kickbacks from entities in exchange for sponsoring applications for the federal child nutrition program . One of the biggest fraud beneficiaries, for example, allegedly paid more than $350,000 to Bock and one of his employees in return for the nonprofit’s cooperation. Small players paid as little as $14,000. Many bribes were disguised as consulting fees.
2. Work the scam: The conspirators set up feeding sites where they claimed to serve up to 5,000 meals a day to needy children, although some sites served little or no meals. In some cases, the conspirators also set up businesses that sold food to food outlets they controlled or were affiliated with.
3. False numbers: To obtain payment, site operators created fake meal tally sheets and filled out attendance lists with the names and ages of fictitious children. In some cases, sites have claimed an identical number of meals each day – a red flag for monitors. Vendors submitted fake invoices documenting fake or inflated food and beverage purchases.
4. To become rich: The charges say Bock and Feeding Our Future submitted fraudulent claims to the Minnesota Department of Education, which oversees the federal program in Minnesota, to obtain money for meal providers and vendors. of food. The payments should have barely covered the vendors’ costs, but the conspirators were able to pocket millions of dollars because their true expenses were so low.
5. Spend loot: The conspirators used the money they fraudulently obtained from the government to purchase vacation homes, investment properties, luxury cars, jewelry, and vacations in the United States and abroad. Federal prosecutors have so far seized $50 million in assets.
Who is involved?
Charges have been laid against six groups allegedly involved in the plot, but the government has said more charges are forthcoming. The six main conspirators controlled nearly 60 restaurant sites in Minnesota and received at least $160 million in fraudulent money, prosecutors say.
1. Empire Kitchen and Market LLC (8 charged): This for-profit Shakopee restaurant raised $28 million between May 2020 and January 2022 operating as a food vendor and supplier. Lead affiliate ThinkTechAct operated more than two dozen catering sites and was paid over $21 million after claiming to serve more than 25,000 children a day.
2. Safari-Restaurant (14 charged): Started serving meals at his Minneapolis restaurant in July 2020, then became an affiliate site provider. In just 20 months, claimed to have served 3.9 million meals at its Minneapolis restaurant and an additional 2.2 million meals as a supplier, including locations in Willmar and Mankato. Received over $16 million in federal money.
3. S&S caterer (8 charged): Acted as a meal provider and vendor. Received $6.8 million after claiming to serve 1.2 million meals at its Minneapolis location. Also raised $12 million as a seller. Four affiliates, including Academy for Youth Excellence, received $12.8 million for sites they operated in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
4. Haji’s kitchen (5 charged): Salesman operating in a small warehouse in Brooklyn Park. Received over $16 million in federal money.
5. Restaurant & Cafe Brava (6 charged): Operated out of a mall in Rochester and was paid $5.6 million after claiming to serve up to 2,999 meals a day.
6. JigJiga Business Center (3 charged): Between February and October 2021, the defendants claimed to have served more than 800,000 meals to children at this Minneapolis business center, receiving more than $1.6 million in federal money.
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