Feds Charge 47 For Stealing $250-M From Meal Program For Low-Income Kids
Federal authorities charged 47 people in Minnesota with conspiracy and other counts in what they said Tuesday (Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022, in Manila) was the largest fraud scheme yet to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by stealing $250 million from a federal program that provides meals to low-income children, Amy Forliti reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Photo Insert: Feeding Our Future’s founder and executive director, Aimee Bock, was among those indicted.
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 US Department of Agriculture (USDAS) 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 US attorney for Minnesota, said at a briefing. “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 the indictment “doesn’t indicate guilt or innocence.”
He said he wouldn’t comment further until seeing the indictment. In interviews after law enforcement searched multiple sites in January, including Bock’s home and offices, Bock denied stealing money and said she never saw evidence of fraud. Earlier this year, the US 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.