US brings charges in ‘serious conspiracy’ to steal children’s meal funding | News about the coronavirus pandemic

The Department of Justice alleges Minnesota defendants stole $250 million to feed low-income children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Justice has charged 47 people in Minnesota with allegedly participating in a “grave scheme” to steal $250 million from a federal program that provides food to low-income children. low in COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the “serious conspiracy to steal public funds for the purpose of caring for children in need… is equivalent to the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme from the United States.” so far”.

“The defendants spent a lot of time exploiting a program designed to feed underserved children in Minnesota amid the COVID-19 pandemic, defrauding millions of dollars designated for the program. for their own personal gain,” Wray speak.

Prosecutors say the defendants formed companies that claimed to feed tens of thousands of children across Minnesota, then sought to reimburse for those meals through real nutrition programs products of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Prosecutors say that in fact very few meals were served, and that the defendants used the money to buy luxury cars, property and jewelry.

“Instead of feeding the children, the defendants enriched themselves,” the Justice Department said.

Many of the companies that claim to be serving food are sponsored by a nonprofit called Feeding Our Future, which has filed claims from the companies.

Feeding Our Future founder and chief executive Aimee Bock was among those indicted Tuesday, and authorities said she and others in her organization filed complaints cheat to get refund and get money back.

Bock’s attorney, Kenneth Udoibok, said the indictment was “not guilty or innocent”. He said he would not comment further until he had seen the indictment.

In interviews after law enforcement searched multiple locations in January, including Bock’s home and office, Bock denied stealing money and said she had never seen a license. fraud evidence.

Andy Luger, US attorney for Minnesota, said at a news conference that the government has billed more than 125 million fake meals, with some defendants creating names for children using a name generator. random online.

He put out a refund claim form claiming that one site served exactly 2,500 meals a day Monday through Friday – no children were sick or short on the program. “These kids are simply invented,” says Luger.

He said the government has so far recovered $50 million in funds and assets and hopes to recover more.

The Justice Department said the defendants face charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and bribery.

“Exploiting a government program to feed children at a time of national crisis is the epitome of greed,” Internal Revenue Service Special Agent Justin Campbell said in a statement Tuesday.

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