47 People Indicted in $250 Million Minnesota COVID Fraud Scheme
Minneapolis, MN (KROC-AM News) - The US Attorney for Minnesota today announced that nearly 50 people have been charged in connection with an investigation into a fraud case he described as "a brazen scheme of staggering proportions."
Andrew Luger says the 47 defendants are facing conspiracy, wire fraud, bribery, money laundering, and paying and receiving kickbacks charges involving a $250 million fraud scheme linked to an organization that called itself Feeding our Future. Luger says guilty pleas are expected from several of the defendants and additional charges are expected.
The fraud scheme involved federal COVID-19 relief funds that were sent to Minnesota to provide meals to children during the pandemic. The indictments allege the defendants submitted fraudulent applications for funding to the Minnesota Department of Education, claiming they were operating food distribution sites serving thousands of children in what he called the "largest pandemic fraud in the United States." Luger says, by the time the scheme collapsed, the defendants allegedly involved had sought reimbursement for about 120 million meals.
One of the indictments names a group that operated a feeding site in Rochester. Luger says the "Bravo" group was among several groups that allegedly conspired with Feeding Our Future to defraud the Federal Child Nutrition Program.
Luger says the $250 million listed in the indictments is "the floor" and the investigation is ongoing. The charges allege the money was used to purchase land, houses, luxury cars, commercial real estate, and jewelry. he says the list includes resort properties in Kenya and Turkey. Luger noted the Justice Department has seized some of the property and is continuing efforts to identify and seize the items and real estate purchased using fraudulently obtained federal funds.
The indictments allege the fraud scheme was launched in the early weeks of the pandemic in March 2020. Luger says it continued until the FBI’s investigation became public with the release of search warrant affidavits in January of this year.
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