Federal authorities in Minnesota have charged 47 individuals with conspiracy and other charges in a scheme for the theft of “$250 million” from a federal program that provides meals for low-income children, reports The Associated Press.
Prosecutors claim that the defendants set up companies to offer food to children in Minnesota and then requested reimbursement through the Department of Agriculture’s nutrition programs.
Andy Luger, U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, stated that “This $250 million floor is the floor.” “Our investigation continues.”
According to the Associated Press, many of the food-service companies were sponsored by Feeding Our Future. They submitted claims for reimbursement. Authorities claim that Feeding Our Future was behind the fraudulent reimbursement claims and that they received kickbacks.
According to the charging documents, Feeding Our Future was responsible for the establishment of almost 200 federal child nutrition program sites in Minnesota. The sites were intended to submit fraudulent claims.
According to indictments, “The sites falsely claimed that they were serving meals to thousands upon thousands of children per day within days or weeks of their formation and despite having very few staff and little experience serving such a large number of meals.”
The Justice Department alleges that one defendant created a list of fake children who supposedly had received meals; the names were generated from the website “listofrandomnames.com.”
The Justice Department stated that “Feeding Our Future understood [the state’s] concerns and that very few Federal Child Nutrition Program funds disbursed through Feeding Our Future was used for feeding children.”
Luger reports that some of the defendants bought “houses in Minnesota”, resort property, real property in Kenya and Turkey as well as luxury cars, commercial property, jewelry, and many other things with the money they earned.
“These indictments, which allege the largest pandemic relief fraud scam scheme to date, underline the Department of Justice’s continued commitment to fighting pandemic fraud, and holding those responsible accountable,” stated Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Luger stated that the government had recovered $50 million in property and money, and expected to recover even more.