10 more people charged in $250M federal food program fraud
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TRISHA AHMED Associated Press/
Report for America
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Ten more people have been charged in connection with a scheme to steal more than $250 million from a federal program designed to provide meals to low-income children in Minnesota, federal prosecutors said Monday.
A total of 60 people have now been charged in the conspiracy, in which authorities say a group of people took advantage of rules that were relaxed during the COVID-19 pandemic and falsely claimed they were providing food to children. Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said in September that the conspiracy was the largest pandemic-related fraud scheme to date.
At a Monday news conference, Luger said six people have pleaded guilty so far, and more information is coming about who organized the scheme.
“Our investigation continues, and we expect more charges in the future,” Luger said.
At the center of the plot, the indictments allege, was a Minnesota nonprofit called Feeding Our Future.
Prosecutors said just a fraction of the money went toward feeding kids, with the rest laundered through shell companies and spent on property, luxury cars and travel.
The money came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with oversight from state governments. In Minnesota, the funds were administered by the state Department of Education, with meals historically provided to kids through schools and day care centers. Sites that served the food were sponsored by authorized public or nonprofit groups.
Some standard program requirements were relaxed during the COVID-19 pandemic; for-profit restaurants were allowed to participate, and food was allowed to be distributed outside educational programs.
Luger said in September that a small group of people came up with the plan to exploit the relaxed rules and steal tens of millions of dollars by falsely claiming they were providing food to children. Others soon joined, and the scheme grew, Luger said.