DOJ Accuses 47 People of $250 Million COVID Fraud Program Using Federally Funded Child Nutrition Program

The Justice Department on Tuesday indicted nearly four dozen people for their alleged roles in a $250 million fraud scheme that took advantage of a federally funded infant nutrition program during the coronavirus pandemic.

Federal prosecutors have indicted 47 people in Minnesota on six separate charges of conspiracy, wire transfer fraud, money laundering and bribery.

According to the indictment documents, the defendants devised and executed a “massive plan” to defraud the Federal Child Nutrition Program,” the Justice Department said. The DOJ said the defendants “obtained, embezzled, and laundered millions of dollars in program funds intended as compensation.” for the cost of serving meals to children.”

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The DOJ said the defendants ” took advantage of changes to the program designed to ensure underprivileged children received adequate nutrition during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) building on Thursday, August 18, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images/Getty Images)

“Instead of feeding children, the defendants have enriched themselves by fraudulently appropriating millions of dollars in funds from the Federal Child Nutrition Program,” the Justice Department said Tuesday.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the USDA has waived some of the standard requirements for joining the Federal Child Nutrition Program.

Aimee Bock is the founder and executive director of Feeding Our Future, a nonprofit that sponsored the Federal Child Nutrition Program. The charges accuse Bock of overseeing a massive fraud scheme carried out by sites sponsored by Feeding Our Future.

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Feeding Our Future went from receiving and disbursing approximately $3.4 million in federal funds in 2019 to nearly $200 million in 2021.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland

Attorney General Merrick Garland makes a statement at the United States Department of Justice on August 11, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Getty Images)

“These charges, which claim it is the largest pandemic fraud scheme indicted to date, underscore the Justice Department’s continued commitment to fight pandemic fraud and hold those who commit it accountable,” the Attorney General said. Merrick Garland Tuesday. “The Justice Department, in conjunction with government agencies, will continue to bring to justice those who exploited the pandemic for personal gain and stole from U.S. taxpayers.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the charges describe an “outrageous plot to steal public funds intended to care for children in need in what amounts to the largest pandemic relief fraud program to date.”

“The defendants have gone to great lengths to operate a program designed to feed underprivileged children in Minnesota amid the COVID-19 pandemic, fraudulently diverting millions of dollars earmarked for the program for their benefit. own personal gain to lead,” Wray said. “These indictments send the message that the FBI and our law enforcement partners will remain vigilant and vigorously prosecute those who attempt to enrich themselves through fraudulent means.”

Christopher Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), looks on during the International Conference on Cyber ​​Security at Fordham University at Lincoln Center, January 9, 2018 in New York City. Wray discussed several topics, including this one

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As part of the arrangement, Feeding Our Future employees would have recruited individuals and entities to open Federal Child Nutrition Program locations in the state of Minnesota.

Created and operated by the defendants and others, these sites fraudulently claimed that they were serving meals to thousands of children a day within just days or weeks of being established. The defendants allegedly created dozens of shell companies to enroll in the program as sites of the Federal Child Nutrition Program. The defendants allegedly set up shell companies to receive and launder the proceeds of their fraudulent scheme.

The Justice Department said the suspects also created and submitted false documentation. They filed fraudulent meal-counting sheets that claimed to document the number of children and meals served at each location, and false-name attendance records that claimed to list the names and ages of the children who were served meals at the locations each day.

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In total, the Justice Department said Feeding Our Future has opened more than 250 locations in the state of Minnesota and fraudulently obtained and disbursed more than $240 million to Federal Child Nutrition Program funds.

“Operating a government program designed to feed children in a time of national crisis is the epitome of greed,” said Special Officer Justin Campbell of the Chicago Field Office’s IRS Criminal Investigation. “As alleged, the defendants in this case chose to enrich themselves at the expense of the children. Rather than feed the future, they chose to steal from the future. IRS – Criminal Investigation is pleased to join our law enforcement partners to hold these suspects responsible.”