Two former Minneapolis officials charged in child nutrition scandal

A former policy aide to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and a former Frey-appointed chairman of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority were among 48 people indicted Tuesday in connection with what the feds say was a scheme to defraud the government and needy children. 125 million meals. These are just the two most prominent cases of the tentacles of the alleged fraud reaching deep into the city’s elite political circles.

In a statement to reformerthe mayor’s office said, “We are grateful to United States Attorney (Andy) Luger for his work on this case. The allegations are appalling.”

Six people were also indicted for misusing funds from the federal child nutrition program through a nonprofit incorporated by Minneapolis City Council member Jamal Osman. Prosecutors say that within days of Osman removing his name from the charter documents of the nonprofit organization called Stigma-Free International, he began a scheme that eventually netted him more than $10 million in federal funds , which were diverted for personal use instead of providing free meals to the hungry. children

Prosecutors say Sharmarke Issa, who was tapped by Frey to chair the housing authority in 2019, used federal child nutrition funds to buy a $390,000 four-unit apartment complex in south Minneapolis with Frey’s former aide Abdi Nur Salah. Salah was fired and Issa resigned in February, after the federal investigation became public with a massive FBI raid.

Issa created a company called Minnesota’s Somali Community and managed the Wacan restaurant, which fraudulently paid more than $7.4 million in federal funds, according to charging documents. Issa is charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering.

Salah is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering. His brother, Abdulkadir Nur Salah, co-owned the Safari restaurant, which prosecutors say fraudulently received more than $16 million in federal funds.

Salah and five other men named in a search warrant gave $6,000 to Frey’s campaign last year, which Frey said he would return, on Sahan newspaper reported in January

In October 2020, the state announced that it would no longer allow restaurants and other for-profit entities to register as meal delivery sites, and restaurants could only serve as food vendors. After that, the owners of the Safari restaurant and other associates began using a nonprofit created by Osman to continue carrying out the scheme, prosecutors allege.

Osman and three others incorporated Stigma-Free International in August 2019, Secretary of State documents show. But new paperwork was filed with the state showing new incorporators, minus Osman, in October 2020, the same month federal prosecutors allege the nonprofit began stealing millions in federal funds.

Earlier this year, Osman he said Sahan newspaper he left the nonprofit in June 2020 and never worked with feeding programs or had any association with Feeding Our Future, which is the focus of the research.

Amy Bock, executive director of Feeding Our Future, tried to use her influence with the city as support. When the Minnesota Department of Education, which oversaw the food aid program, tried to stop the alleged fraud, Bock emailed Salah a proposed board resolution questioning MDE’s commitment to minority children and business owners, according to public records. obtained by Star Tribune.

Salah sent the word to Osman, who offered to present the resolution at a council meeting, but his assistant convinced him to wait until after a meeting with MDE. After the meeting, the resolution was never presented, the Star Tribune reported

After the state halted funding for Feeding Our Future in March 2021, three months later, Osman lent her support to Bock at a public event where she sat next to him, along with other politicians including Senator Omar Fateh. At the event, Osman spoke about introducing a council resolution criticizing the state for rejecting the nonprofit’s applications.

Two days after Osman’s name was removed from the nonprofit’s founding documents, Bock and Ahmed Artan, Stigma-Free’s new president, prepared applications to establish child feeding sites in Willmar under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future.

Feeding our Future oversees the massive scheme run by dozens of distribution sites under its sponsorship. Prosecutors say Feeding our Future employees recruited people to open locations across the state, falsely claiming to serve meals to thousands of children a day within days or weeks of setting up.

Prosecutors say Stigma-Free went on to milk the federal government for millions, starting that month by setting up meal distribution sites throughout Minnesota, including Willmar, Mankato, St. Cloud, Waite Park and St. Paul.

For example, the Willmar site claimed to serve 2,000 to 3,000 children a day, seven days a week, from FaaFan. Before 2020, the small downtown Willmar restaurant served a few dozen people a day, had less than $200,000 in annual revenue and rented the space for about $1,600 a month, prosecutors say.

That is, until Abdikadir Ainanshe Mohamud, 30, of Fridley offered $40,000 a month to use for a stigma-free site, the charges say. Prosecutors allege Mohamud also created a shell company called Tunyar Trading that purported to be a food vendor.

Over the next year, Mohamud and others claimed to have served 1.6 million meals and received more than $4 million in federal funds. They said they served 2,000 children in an after-school program, the equivalent of nearly half the students enrolled in Willmar Public Schools, but only 33 matched the names of enrolled students.

Mohamud allegedly transferred nearly $2 million to him and others, and paid Feeding Our Future nearly $500,000 in administrative fees to sponsor the Willmar site. Mohamud is accused of paying more than $225,000 in bribes and kickbacks to a Feeding Our Future employee.

Mohamud was appointed to a public safety task force by Frey in December, but has since left the group.

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