Several dozen people have been charged after allegedly deceiving the government to steal children’s charity money in Minnesota during the COVID-19 pandemic — and use it for their own luxury.
In a Tuesday release, the U.S. Department of Justice announced criminal charges against the 47 individuals for their alleged roles in the scam, which racked up over $250 million. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland called it “the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme charged to date.”
All of the individuals involved in the fraud scheme are connected to a Minnesota nonprofit called Feeding Our Future, which was allegedly used as a front to collect the government funds. FBI Director Christopher Wray explained:
“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.”
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There were six groups total in the lawsuit, comprised of the 47 individuals being charged with federal crimes like conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud, money laundering, and paying and receiving illegal kickbacks. U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Andrew M. Luger explained in the DOJ release:
“This was a brazen scheme of staggering proportions. These defendants exploited a program designed to provide nutritious food to needy children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, they prioritized their own greed, stealing more than a quarter of a billion dollars in federal funds to purchase luxury cars, houses, jewelry, and coastal resort property abroad.”
According to the release, the defendants created and submitted false documentation as proof of need for government reimbursement, including fake invoices and attendance rosters. You won’t believe this, but the names of the fake children who needed help? They were created by using names from a website called www.listofrandomnames.com.
In total, Feeding Our Future, founded by Aimee Bock, claimed to open 250 sites throughout the state of Minnesota, for which they fraudulently obtained the $250 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds. The release reported the program went from receiving $3.4 million in federal funds in 2019 to nearly $200 million in 2020. The Department of Justice noted:
“The defendants used the proceeds of their fraudulent scheme to purchase luxury vehicles, residential and commercial real estate in Minnesota as well as property in Ohio and Kentucky, real estate in Kenya and Turkey, and to fund international travel.”
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Special Agent Justin Campbell, in charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation, Chicago Field Office explained:
“Exploiting a government program intended to feed children at the time of a national crisis is the epitome of greed. As alleged, the defendants charged in this case chose to enrich themselves at the expense of children. Instead of feeding the future, they chose to steal from the future. IRS — Criminal Investigation is pleased to join our law enforcement partners to hold these defendants accountable.”
What a shockingly egregious ploy to turn personal profit at the expense of children in need. That money should have been used to actually help those who needed it, not to buy luxury cars and homes for rich crooks. This is one of the most disgusting, greediest crimes we’ve ever heard of — and we hope to see justice served. What are your thoughts on the fraud scheme? Let us know in the comments (below).
[Images via The Justice Department/YouTube]