47 people charged in alleged scheme that stole $250M from food program, feds say

 

By Amy Forliti, Associated Press

via Omaha World-Herald (NE) - Sep 20, 2022

 

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Federal authorities charged 47 people in Minnesota with conspiracy and other counts on Tuesday in what they said was a massive scheme that took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to steal $250 million from a federal program that provides meals to low-income children.

 

Prosecutors say the defendants created companies that claimed to be offering food to tens of thousands of children across Minnesota, then sought reimbursement for those meals through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food nutrition programs. Prosecutors say few meals were actually served, and the defendants used the money to buy luxury cars, property and jewelry.

 

"This $250 million is the floor," Andy Luger, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, said at a news conference. "Our investigation continues."

 

Many of the companies that claimed to be serving food were sponsored by a nonprofit called Feeding Our Future, which submitted the companies' claims for reimbursement. Feeding Our Future's founder and executive director, Aimee Bock, was among those indicted, and authorities say she and others in her organization submitted the fraudulent claims for reimbursement and received kickbacks.

 

Bock's attorney, Kenneth Udoibok, said he wouldn't comment until he's had a chance to see the indictment, but that the indictment "doesn't indicate guilt or innocence."

 

In an interview in January after law enforcement searched her home and offices, among other sites, Bock denied stealing money and said she never saw evidence of fraud.

 

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice made prosecuting pandemic-related fraud a priority. The department has already taken enforcement actions related to more than $8 billion in suspected pandemic fraud, including bringing charges in more than 1,000 criminal cases involving losses in excess of $1.1 billion.

 

The defendants in Minnesota face multiple counts, including conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and bribery...

 

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