Dozens charged with defrauding child nutrition program
The Department of Justice charged 47 people on Tuesday for defrauding a federal meal program for children from low income families of $250 million during the COVID-19 pandemic
Feeding Our Future, a nonprofit organization in Minnesota, allegedly created shell companies and falsified documents to claim that it was feeding thousands of children a day under the Federal Child Nutrition Program, according to the Justice Department.
Instead, those participating in the scheme are accused of using the money they received to buy luxury vehicles, international travel and real estate in Minnesota, Ohio, Kentucky, Kenya and Turkey.
“Today’s indictments describe an egregious plot to steal public funds meant to care for children in need in what amounts to the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme yet,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.
“The defendants went to great lengths to exploit a program designed to feed underserved children in Minnesota amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, fraudulently diverting millions of dollars designated for the program for their own personal gain,” he added.
Feeding Our Future reportedly took advantage of changes that the Department of Agriculture made to the federal meal program during the pandemic, including waiving some standard requirements for participation.
The individuals charged in the scheme allegedly created shell companies to enroll as Federal Child Nutrition Program sites and submitted fake invoices for food purchases and fake attendance rosters, complete with fabricated names and ages of children. They are also accused of creating shell companies to launder the money they made through the scheme.
Feeding Our Future received $240 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds and another $18 million in administrative fees.