Sep 21, 2022
Feeding Our Future scandal rocks Minnesota beyond Twin Cities Transcript
Local officials and business owners say they’re outraged by the scheme, that “literally took money from all Americans.” Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
With nearly 50 people facing federal criminal charges tonight in what investigators call the largest case of COVID fraud yet nationwide and it allegedly happened right here in Minnesota. The US attorney for Minnesota says the group Feeding our Future, led by Aimee Bock stole $250 million of federal COVID money meant to feed children in need. According to the indictment, the group helped others set up fake companies and recruited legitimate restaurants to participate in the scheme. The defendants then allegedly spent that money on real estate, travel and jewelry. The charges include conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and paying and receiving illegal kickbacks.
Speaker 2: (00:45)
These individuals believed they could steal tens of millions of dollars from a federal child nutrition program by claiming to serve food to needy children when they were not. Their goal was to make as much money for themselves as they could while falsely claiming to feed children during the pandemic.
Speaker 1: (01:06)
Well, Bock’s lawyer says he hasn’t seen any evidence that she did anything wrong, but if the government produced that evidence, they would take responsibility. Some Minnesota, GOP leaders have accused the state education department of failing to do their jobs to prevent this fraud but the US attorney says he’s pleased with their cooperation.
Speaker 1: (01:25)
This scandal extended far beyond the twin cities. Prosecutors accused defendants of setting up fraudulent meal sites in several greater Minnesota towns, including Willmar. That’s where Danny Spewak continues our team coverage tonight talking to people who say they are outraged.
I’ve been here for 20 years.
Danny Spewak: (01:44)
Since moving to Willmar in 2002, Abdul [inaudible 00:01:49] has built a life in this city of 20,000.
Our kids here, and the people here are just regular Minnesotans.
Danny Spewak: (01:55)
That’s why he’s so discouraged to learn of Willmar’s connection to the largest COVID-19 fraud case in the us.
The good folks that work really hard for a living and contribute to this community in a very positive way are being dragged in.
Danny Spewak: (02:11)
According to the indictment, one of the defendants in the Feeding our Future scandal approached the owner of a downtown Somali restaurant in October, 2020 to see if he would participate as a COVID meal site.
Marv Calvin: (02:22)
So when we’d heard that this was happening in our community, it really broke our hearts.
Danny Spewak: (02:26)
As Willmar mayor, Marv Calvin notes, neither the restaurant or anyone from his city are accused of wrongdoing.
Danny Spewak: (02:32)
Do you feel as though one of your local businesses was taken advantage of here?
Marv Calvin: (02:35)
Danny Spewak: (02:36)
Prosecutors accused Abdikadir Mohamud and his co-conspirators of inflating the number of meals served in Willmar reporting 1.6 million in one year, while also submitting a quote “fake list” of 2,000 kids who supposedly ate those meals. But according to the court documents of those 2,000 names submitted on this list, only 33 matched the names of real students who attended the Willmar public schools. Through the scheme, prosecutors say the defendants came away with $4 million in federal child nutrition funds.
Marv Calvin: (03:09)
They really exploited the generosity of rural Minnesota. They literally took money from all Americans and that’s a disgrace.
Danny Spewak: (03:17)
The people of Willmar also want their good name back having long, been praised as a melting pot of different cultures.
They could be from Mexico, Guatemala, Mogadishu, wherever, you know? These are hard working, honest people, hundred percent.
Danny Spewak: (03:33)
Danny Spewak, Kare 11 News.
Speaker 1: (03:36)
Prosecutors are accusing the defendants of similar fraud in Mankato, St. Cloud and Waite Park. Leaders with the justice department’s COVID fraud enforcement team joined Minnesota investigators to announce the charges today calling this whole scheme egregious and saying they are infuriated.
Speaker 6: (03:54)
Unfortunately, people who have committed themselves to misconduct and to fraud will often go to extraordinary lengths to accomplish it. These are not dumb people. They are people who set out with a particular plan.
Speaker 1: (04:08)
Investigators say their work on this case continues, and there may be more charges to come. There’s still a lot to unpack with this story and we will be covering it in the coming days. Stay with us here on Kare 11 and on our digital platforms.