Food Fraud Masterminds Convicted in $40 Million Scheme – Attempted $120,000 Bribe Unveiled

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – A major fraud case involving five Minnesota residents convicted and two acquitted highlights a scheme to illicitly obtain more than $40 million intended for feeding children during the coronavirus pandemic. The case drew significant attention when an attempt to bribe a juror with $120,000 in cash came to light, leading to the dismissal of the juror involved, along with another juror who was informed of the incident.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Thompson denounced the attempted bribe as an assault on the criminal justice system and pledged to investigate the matter thoroughly. The convicted individuals falsified claims of providing meals to children in Minnesota during COVID-19 to defraud the state and steal tens of millions of dollars, according to Thompson, who expressed satisfaction at the fraud convictions.

Despite defense arguments asserting the legitimacy of their clients’ meal provisions, prosecutors highlighted how federal funds, channeled through nonprofit organizations, were misappropriated through fake invoices, shell companies, and money laundering. The scheme allegedly involved passport fraud, kickbacks, and lavish personal expenditures instead of serving low-income children as intended.

The jury verdicts saw Abdiaziz Shafii Farah, Mohamed Jama Ismail, Abdimajid Mohamed Nur, Mukhtar Mohamed Shariff, and Hayat Mohamed Nur convicted on numerous counts related to conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and bribery. While Farah faced the most counts, being found guilty on 23 of 24 charges, defendants Said Shafii Farah and Abdiwahab Maalim Aftin were acquitted of all charges they faced.

The defrauding of COVID-19 relief funds is part of a broader trend uncovered in an Associated Press analysis, revealing that billions of dollars intended for pandemic aid across the nation were misappropriated. The loss of hundreds of billions due to fraud and mismanagement underscores the challenges faced by authorities in safeguarding relief aid dissemination during crises.

In light of these revelations, sentencing hearings for the convicted individuals will be arranged at a later date, marking a significant step in addressing the misuse of public funds meant to alleviate the impact of the pandemic. Amid ongoing investigations and legal proceedings, the case underscores the complexities and vulnerabilities inherent in distributing emergency aid programs efficiently and accountably to those in need.