The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a federal criminal complaint against 47 suspects for scamming $250 million in the Covid-19 relief program.
It was alleged that people who violated the child nutrition program bought luxury vehicles and housing in places including Turkey with their unjust gains.
A total of 47 defendants were charged with six “conspiracy, electronic fraud, money laundering and bribery” charges.
The Federal Child Nutrition Program, administered by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), was planned to provide free meals to children in need.
The institution at the center of the accusations is the non-profit charity ‘Feeding Our Future’ in the state of Minnesota.
The organization’s director, Aimee Bock, is accused of “overseeing a massive fraud scheme”.
In the indictment, it was noted that ‘Feeding Our Future’ received approximately $3.4 million in federal funding in 2019, increasing to approximately $200 million in 2021.
The defendants used the proceeds from the fraud to “buy luxury vehicles, residential and commercial real estate in Minnesota, as well as property in Ohio and Kentucky, real estate in Kenya and Turkey, and finance international travel.”
“The Biggest Aid Scam”
FBI Director Christopher Wray said public funds designed to care for needy children were stolen, making it the biggest pandemic aid fraud ever.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland noted that “those stolen from American taxpayers will be brought to justice.” “This is a surprisingly brazen plan,” said Andrew M. Luger, a US Attorney for the District of Minnesota.
“Children’s names stolen”
According to the indictment, the defendants set up dozens of front companies to enroll in the program as Federal Child Nutrition Program sites; received, embezzled, and laundered millions of dollars in program funds to reimburse children’s meals.
The following statements were included in the indictment: “The defendants submitted fake meal count tables claiming to document the number of children and meals. Forged attendance lists were presented, which allegedly included the names of children who eat out every day. Some of the names were published on a website called “www.listofrandomnames.com”. Taken from the site.”
Feeding Our Future “distributed fraudulently obtained Federal Child Nutrition Program funds to individuals and organizations involved in the plan.”
The indictment states that the six suspects “used approximately $4.3 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds, which they embezzled for their personal interests, including expenses such as vehicles, real estate and property on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.”