Dozens of people are facing federal charges for their alleged roles in a scheme that federal prosecutors said exploited a program designed to feed children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Justice announced the charges in a news release, saying that the 47 people charged “obtained, misappropriated, and laundered millions of dollars in program funds that were intended as reimbursements for the cost of serving meals to children.”
“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.”
Among the defendants indicted is Aimee Bock, the executive director of the charity Feeding our Future, prosecutors said in the news release. Prosecutors said that the charity’s employees recruited people to open Federal Child Nutrition Program sites across Minnesota, which then fraudulently claimed to serve meals to thousands of children a day within days or weeks of being formed.
Prosecutors told The Star-Tribune that in all, the defendants were reimbursed for 125 million meals that were never served.
In the news release, prosecutors said that as part of the scheme, the defendants created false documentation that claimed the number of children and meals served at each site, as well as fake attendance rosters that purported to list the names and ages of the children receiving meals. Federal prosecutors said, “one roster was created using names from a website called www.listofrandomnames.com.”
In an interview earlier this year, Bock denied ever stealing money or seeing evidence of fraud, The Star Tribune reported.
“Exploiting a government program intended to feed children at the time of a national crisis is the epitome of greed,” Special Agent in Charge Justin Campbell of the IRS Criminal Investigation, Chicago Field Office, said in a statement. “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.”
An investigation into Feeding Our Future began after the Minnesota Department of Education noticed a sudden spike in the number of sites sponsored by the organization, The Star Tribune reported. The FBI began its investigation in 2021, after state officials brought information from their investigation to the bureau.
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