Dozens indicted in COVID-19 nutrition program fraud scheme

Dozens of people have been arrested for defrauding a federal child nutrition program and taking $250 million.

Newly released court documents obtained by WCCO confirming a 48th suspect charged in what officials call the largest pandemic fraud in the United States.

According to investigators, agents arrested Mekfira Hussein at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Saturday, before she could take a one-way flight to Ethiopia. Hussein has been accused of playing a key role in the scheme that was led by the group Feeding our Future, and its founder Aimee Bock.

Instead of using the hundreds of millions of dollars the company received from the federal government to feed kids in Minnesota, investigators say those involved divided and pocketed the funds.

One company working to feed disadvantaged Minnesotan children is nonprofit Youthprise.

“A hungry kid doesn’t necessarily going to look a certain way. They aren’t necessarily going to tell you they’re hungry. But they’re hungry,” said Christa DeBoer, Youthprise’s nutrition program director. “They’re going to show up, they’re going to eat. The programs need to exist.”

Like Youthprise, Feeding our Future was a program that helped connect food service providers with schools, daycares and after school programs.

In 2019, Feeding our Future, dispersed about three and half million dollars’ worth of food services. But by 2021, its receipts skyrocketed to more than 200 million bucks.

The suspects range in age, from their 20s to 60s. They also come from nearly two dozen cities and towns, plus two from Ohio.

One man indicted, Abdi Nur Salah, was a senior aide to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

The mayor says Salah was fired last February, and called the allegations “appalling.”

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