Ten more people were indicted Monday for misappropriating and laundering money they got through a federal child nutrition program prosecutors say was bilked out of more than $250 million in Minnesota.
That brings the total number of people indicted to 60. So far, six people have pleaded guilty.
The feds have seized $66.6 million in bank accounts, real estate and other property, including $4 million worth of vehicles. U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said the money was spent on fancy cars, from Teslas to BMWs to luxe resort vacations, and even a deposit on an airplane.
One even laundered money by purchasing a laundromat, Luger said.
“The song of the Feeding Our Future scandal remains the same,” Luger said during a press conference.
Just like the first 50 people indicted, the defendants are charged with falsely claiming to have fed thousands of needy children daily, generating fake invoices to make it appear they were buying large amounts of food, but spending much of the money on themselves. They’re charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and bribery.
And the investigation isn’t over.
Among those charged is a prominent woman in the Bloomington area, Ayan Farah Abukar, 41, who was lauded as an “outstanding refugee” in 2021 by the state Department of Human Services, the Reformer reported in October.
Abukar founded Action for East African People, which she enrolled in the federal child nutrition program under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future and another unnamed company. She’s charged with falsely claiming to serve up to 5,000 children a day at sites in Bloomington, Minneapolis, Savage, and St. Paul from October 2020 through 2022.
Abukar is charged with fraudulently receiving about $5.7 million in federal funds, paying over $330,000 in kickbacks to a Feeding Our Future employee and spending millions on real estate, including a 37-acre commercial property in Lakeville. She’s accused of using the money to deposit a quarter of a million dollars towards the purchase of an aircraft to be delivered to Nairobi, Kenya.
Luger said among the most brazen schemes he’s seen is that of Kawsar Jama, 41, of Eagan, who claimed to be feeding 2,560 meals per day to needy children in Pelican Rapids, which has a total population of about 2,500.
Luger said the names of the children she claimed to feed didn’t match school records, and she reached out to a friend to “help her invent names.”
Jama didn’t go to the trouble of renting a fake food distribution site, as most of the defendants did, but forged a phony lease instead, Luger said.
She’s charged with submitting $3.7 million in fraudulent claims for federal funds, some of which she spent on living expenses, real estate, and vehicles, including a Tesla Model X and Infiniti QX56 SUV.
Also charged are:
- Abdikadir Kadiye, 51, of Minneapolis, was the president of Hobyo Health Care Foundation, and is charged with falsely claiming to have served at least 445,000 meals to children in Minnetonka, Eden Prairie and Minneapolis throughout 2021. Kadiye submitted over $1.1 million in fraudulent claims for federal funds, some of which he spent on vehicles (including a $105,000 2022 BMW sport utility vehicle), airline tickets, real estate, and $20,000 towards the purchase of a laundromat.
- Abdulkadir Awale, 50, of Bloomington, was the principal of Karmel Coffee, LLC and Sambusa King, Inc., and the CEO of Nawal Restaurant. All three of Awale’s businesses were enrolled in the federal program under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future and an unnamed company. Awale claimed to provide over 3.6 million meals from April 2020 to January 2022, submitting $11.8 million in claims. He’s accused of paying at least $83,000 in kickbacks to a Feeding Our Future employee and using some of the money to make mortgage payments and cash withdrawals and purchase vehicles, including a Freightliner Cascadia truck.
- Khadra Abdi, 41, of Minneapolis, was the principal of Shafi’I Tutoring & Homework Help Center, which she enrolled under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future. Abdi is charged with falsely claiming to have served 1.1 million meals to needy children at her site in Hopkins between April 2020 and December 2021, submitting over $3.4 million in claims. Abdi is accused of paying at least $17,000 in kickbacks to a Feeding Our Future employee and using some of the funds to make credit card payments, cash withdrawals, and buy clothing.
- Sade Osman Hashi, 45, of Minneapolis, was the principal of Great Lakes Inc. and Safari Express, which he enrolled in the program under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future and another company. Hashi is charged with claiming to have served up to 2,500 meals daily to children at his site in the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis between September 2020 through 2022, fraudulently receiving about $5.7 million in federal funds. The feds say Hashi paid over $150,000 in kickbacks to a Feeding Our Future employee and used some of the funds to make cash withdrawals and convert approximately $133,000 to cryptocurrency.
- Sharon Denise Ross, 52, of Big Lake, was the executive director of House of Refuge Twin Cities, a non-profit which she enrolled in the federal program under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future and an unnamed company. Ross is charged with claiming to have served thousands of children daily, fraudulently receiving $2.8 million, some of which she spent on real estate, vehicles and payments to family members.
Luger said the following were charged and are expected to plead guilty soon are:
- Mohamed Ali Hussein, 53, and Lul Bashir Ali, 57, both of Faribault, enrolled Somali American Faribault Education and Lido Restaurant in the program, under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future. Hussein is charged with falsely claiming the SAFE site in Faribault served up to 2,500 children a day, seven days a week. Lul Ali is charged with falsely claiming Lido Restaurant in Faribault served up to 1,600 children a day, seven days a week. Hussein and Lul Ali received over $5 million in federal funds, and the feds say Hussein paid more than $100,000 in kickbacks to a Feeding Our Future employee.
- Mulata Yusuf Ali, 38, of Minneapolis, is charged with theft of government funds involving the federal child nutrition program from December 2020 through January 2022.
Editor’s note: The Minnesota Reformer is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to keeping Minnesotans informed and unearthing stories other outlets can’t or won’t tell.
Minnesota Reformer staff writer Deena Winter wrote this piece. This story originally appeared in the Minnesota Reformer on March 13
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