Nearly four dozen people have been indicted in a massive scheme to defraud a federal program formed to feed needy children during the pandemic of $250 million – in what U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger calls, “the largest pandemic fraud in the United States.”
One of the defendants, Aimee Bock, used her non-profit Feeding Our Future to sponsor companies that were supposed to provide meals to low-income children but instead used the money to enrich themselves. Charged with wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and receiving illegal kickbacks, the defendants used the ill-gotten gains to purchase luxury cars, jewelry, and property, according to prosecutors.
“As Executive Director of Feeding Our Future, AIMEE BOCK, oversaw a massive scheme to defraud carried out by sites under its sponsorship. BOCK and her company recruited individuals and entities to open up more than 200 Federal Child Nutrition Program sites throughout the state of Minnesota,” the indictment states.
The Federal Child Nutrition Program (FCNP) operates across the United States under the Food and Nutrition Service agency of the Dept. of Agriculture (USDA). In Minnesota, the nutrition program is run by the Minnesota Department of Education, and every site must be sponsored by an organization like Feeding Our Future that is responsible for submitting reimbursement paperwork on behalf of the companies running food programs. Unfortunately, the only things being fed were the bank accounts and pockets of those in on the grift.
According to the indictment:
“The defendants devised and carried out a massive scheme to defraud the federal child nutrition program designed to provide free meals to children in need. 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. The defendants exploited changes in the program intended to ensure underserved children received adequate nutrition during the Covid-19 pandemic. Rather than feed children, the defendants took advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic–and the resulting program changes–to enrich themselves by fraudulently misappropriating millions of dollars in federal child nutrition program funds.”
Once the reimbursements were processed, Feeding Our Future would retain a 10-15% fee, and forward the rest to co-conspirators.
Co-defendant and FOF employee Abdikerm Abdelahi Eidleh created shell companies masquerading as food vendors and submitted fraudulent invoices. Fake rosters, featuring fake kids and fake meals were the only results.
Invoices claiming to feed up to 5,000 kids daily were scrutinized by the Minnesota Department of Education – causing Bock to claim “racism,” for the oversight.
“The department began scrutinizing Feeding Our Future’s site applications more carefully, and denied dozens of them. In response, Bock sued the department in November 2020, alleging discrimination, saying the majority of her sites are based in immigrant communities. That case has since been dismissed,” according to CBS News.
But it appears the education agency was on the right track.
“According to an FBI, affidavit unsealed earlier this year, Feeding Our Future received $307,000 in reimbursements from the USDA in 2018, $3.45 million in 2019, and $42.7 million in 2020. The amount of reimbursements jumped to $197.9 million in 2021,” CBS News reported.
Close to $4 million in traceable cash was seized from Bock – including over $3.5 million from one Bank of America account. Residential and commercial real estate, luxury vehicles – including a $77,000 truck – were part of a multi-page forfeiture list in the indictment of Bock and her co-defendants.
Under the Biden administration, the Justice Department has made pandemic fraud a priority and has so far brought charges in over 1,000 cases – worth $1.1 billion. Though significantly less than the $8 billion believed to have been scammed, it’s a step in the right direction. With recent reports of mass welfare fraud in Mississippi, leaving the state’s poorest residents – including its children – without the resources they need, hopefully, this disturbing trend will come to a grinding halt as more are caught in accountability’s web.
In March, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison asked a court to supervise the dissolution of Feeding our Future. A Dakota County court granted the AG’s request in April, ordering FOF to prepare financial statements and provide an inventory of assets.
Read the entire indictment here.
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