On September 20, the US Department of Justice charged 48 suspects for stealing over $250 million through the organization Feeding Our Future. It is a charity initiative that allegedly carried out a fraud scheme under the pretense of trying to support lower income families during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In an official statement, federal prosecutors said that the suspects had set up a large-scale pandemic relief fund meant to provide food to underprivileged children in Minnesota.
The prosecutor's statement read:
“Defendants obtained, misappropriated, and laundered millions of dollars in program funds that were intended as reimbursements for the cost of serving meals to children."
Among the most prominent suspects indicted in the alleged fraud scheme is Aimee Marie Bock, the 41-year-old founder of Feeding Our Future.
The allegations against Feeding our Future
According to CBS News, the suspects are accused of having created several companies that advertised their willingness to provide food to underserved children. They then allegedly received reimbursement for the said meals through a nutrition program run by the US Department of Agriculture.
One of the most prominent companies implicated in the scheme was S&S Catering, which was operated by 53-year-old Qamar Ahmed Hassan. Hassan, along with other business owners, supposedly claimed that his initiatives to feed underprivileged children were sponsored by Feeding Our Future.
CNN reported that as a sponsoring agency, Feeding Our Future would collect 10-15 percent of the reimbursement funds.
Prosecutors claim that Hassan reported having served millions of free meals. Upon further scrutiny, authorities began to suspect that he misled the US Department of Agriculture and used the funds for luxury items and real estate investments.
The Department of Justice statement read:
"In August 2020, S & S Catering Inc. enrolled in the Federal Child Nutrition Program under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future. The owner of S & S Catering and other co-conspirators opened sites across the Twin Cities and claimed to have served millions of meals."
It continued to add that based on fraudulent claims, the defendants received over $18 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds. The statement alleged that the defendants used the money to buy vehicles and real estate.
Other businesses that were allegedly involved in the scheme include Safari restaurant and Olive Management Inc. The alleged conspirators in these businesses are accused of setting up several shell companies in order to launder the fraud money.
In an official statement, Justin Campbell, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation, condemned the actions of those said to be involved in the conspiracy. He said:
“Exploiting a government program intended to feed children at the time of a national crisis is the epitome of greed. As alleged, the defendants charged in this case chose to enrich themselves at the expense of children."
On September 20, Aimee Bock pleaded not guilty to the charges.