48 People Charged For Running Covid Fraud Scheme Worth $250 Million In Minnesota

New Delhi: The Justice Department of the United States of America, has charged 48 people in Minnesota for running the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme yet. They are accused of running anti-hunger programmes for low-income children and siphoning off $250 million by billing the government for meals they did not serve. According to an AP report, prosecutors said that only a fraction of this money was spent on feeding children while the rest was laundered through shell companies, spent on property, luxury cars and travel.

Among those charged is 41-year-old, Aimee Bock, the founder and executive director of Feeding Our Future, a non-profit organisation that was a sponsor of the Federal Child Nutrition Program.

“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, as reported by AFP.

“These sites, created and operated by the defendants and others, fraudulently claimed to be serving meals to thousands of children a day,” it said.

Authorities have alleged that Feeding the Future recruited others to open over 250 sites across Minnesota. The organisation, submitted false invoices and fraudulent meal count sheets using fake names of children for reimbursement. They received an administrative fee of 10% to 15% in addition to kickbacks from people who wanted to join the scheme. 

According to AP, Feeding Our Future was formed in 2016 to help poor and minority communities secure federal food program funding. The nonprofit organisation quickly became the largest independent sponsor of such programs in Minnesota.

According to the report, an FBI affidavit traced the nonprofit’s rising reimbursements: $307,000 in 2018, $3.45 million in 2019, $42.7 million in 2020 and $197.9 million in 2021.

Bock said she never stole money and saw no evidence of fraud among her subcontractors. Feeding Our Future was dissolved in February, AP reported.