The Justice Department announced Tuesday that 47 people were charged for their alleged role in scheming $250 million from the Federal Child Nutrition Program during the pandemic.
In a news release, federal prosecutors said charges included conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and bribery.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland called it the "largest pandemic relief fraud scheme charged to date."
According to court documents, the DOJ said the defendants set up shell companies connected to the Minnesota nonprofit Feeding Our Future, claiming they were feeding thousands of children across the state, and then would companies' claims for reimbursement.
But actually, they were using the money to buy luxury cars, property, and jewelry, the DOJ said.
“Today’s indictments describe an egregious plot to steal public funds meant to care for children in need in what amounts to the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme yet,” stated FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The defendants went to great lengths to exploit a program designed to feed underserved children in Minnesota amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, fraudulently diverting millions of dollars designated for the program for their own personal gain. These charges send the message that the FBI and our law enforcement partners remain vigilant and will vigorously pursue those who attempt to enrich themselves through fraudulent means.”
Among those indicted was Feeding Our Future’s founder and executive director, Aimee Bock, who prosecutors alleged as overseeing the "massive fraud scheme."
According to the indictment, prosecutors allege that the nonprofit opened more than 250 federal child nutrition program sites throughout the state, knowing that the sites intended to fraudulently obtain and disburse more than $240 million in funds, the DOJ said.