By Judith Gicobi
Officials in the US state of Minnesota stated on Tuesday that 47 people have been prosecuted in relation to a $240 million Covid relief fraud scheme.
“Today’s indictments describe an egregious plot to steal public funds meant to care for children in need in what amounts to the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme yet,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said.
According to the Justice Department, the defendants used millions of dollars distributed through the Federal Child Nutrition Program to feed hungry children during the Covid pandemic.
The executive director and creator of the nonprofit group Feeding Our Future, which sponsored the Federal Child Nutrition Program, Aimee Bock, 41, is one among those accused.
“Feeding Our Future employees recruited individuals and entities to open Federal Child Nutrition Program sites throughout the state of Minnesota,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
“These sites, created and operated by the defendants and others, fraudulently claimed to be serving meals to thousands of children a day,” it said.
Instead, they used fictitious child identities to submit bogus bills and food count sheets.
The Justice Department believes that during the pandemic, Feeding Our Future opened more than 250 locations across the state of Minnesota.
“The defendants used the proceeds of their fraudulent scheme to purchase luxury vehicles, residential and commercial real estate in Minnesota as well as property in Ohio and Kentucky, real estate in Kenya and Turkey, and to fund international travel,” the department said.
The defendants are accused of a variety of crimes, including money laundering, federal program corruption, and wire fraud.