By Brendan Pierson
(Reuters) – Federal prosecutors on Tuesday announced criminal charges against 47 people they accused of stealing about $250 million from a federal aid program meant to help feed children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The US Department of Justice says the scheme, which focuses on the Minnesota nonprofit Feeding Our Future, is the largest scam related to pandemic relief programs yet to be discovered. Feeding Our Future founder Aimee Bock, 41, is among those charged.
“This is a brazen scheme of staggering proportions,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger for the District of Minnesota said in a statement. “These defendants exploited a program designed to provide nutritious food to impoverished children during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Feeding Our Future could not be immediately reached for comment.
Prosecutors say the scheme’s participants submitted fraudulent documents to a program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provides meals to impoverished children, a program that was expanded over a period of time. pandemic period. The USDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While falsely claiming to have used the money to buy food and operate distribution sites, the defendants, including the food service business owner and others, kept the money to themselves, spending it spent on luxury cars, real estate and jewelry, according to prosecutors.
The defendants created dozens of shell companies to operate websites that distributed fake food and laundered proceeds from the scheme, prosecutors said.