A Minnesota nonprofit has been charged after allegedly pocketing millions of dollars in federal funds earmarked to provide free meals for students, instead splurging on cars and luxury items.
“The companies and their owners received tens of millions of dollars in federal funds for use in providing nutritious meals to underprivileged children and adults,” FBI Special Agent Travis Wilmer stated in an affidavit for a search warrant after the agency raided the offices of Feeding Our Future (FOF) in January, Epoch Times reported.
In total, some 200 agents from the FBI raided 15 homes and offices in the Twin Cities related to FOF, a nonprofit tasked with distributing federal funds to distribution sites tasked with serving free meals to school children and other underserved groups during the COVID-19 crisis.
The funds, provided by the U.S. Agriculture Department, would be allotted by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to local organizations such as FOF to facilitate local projects to serve meals for the underprivileged.
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According to court records, the organization defrauded two MDE disbursed meals-for-kids programs, namely the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program of multiple millions of dollars by filing false claims for enormous amounts of food.
However, the case alleges that the majority of the grants weren’t used to buy food for hungry kids, but disappeared deep into the deep pockets of FOF administrators, who spent tens of millions of dollars on cars, luxury goods, and real estate.
“Almost none of this money was used to feed children,” the deposition continued. “Instead, the participants in the scheme misappropriated the money and used it to purchase real estate, cars, and other luxury items.”
Suspicion grew with Minnesotan state regulators when the charity disproportionately ramped up its cost declarations without providing the proper paperwork for it.
Meanwhile, the number of alleged mouths to feed by the apparently extremely successful organization increased from 4,000 in 2019 to 400,000 in 2021.
The revenue flowing through its network increased from $4 million in meals disbursed in 2019, to $42.7 million in 2020, and $197 million in 2021.
Of this $197 million, FOF took a cut of approximately $19 million, which, according to founder and president, Aimee Bock, was used mainly to finance its 80 person staff and to supply the dining facilities.
Bock herself netted $190,000 in total.
Because the charity couldn’t properly account for the hundreds of thousands in extra claims, the MDE became suspicious and reported the FOF to the USDA Office of the Inspector General in October of 2020.
The MDE also attempted to halt the disbursement of payments to Bock’s organization. But FOF successfully appealed to a judge to intervene after claiming the Education Department could not substantiate allegations of the charity cooking its books.
In November, FOF sued the MDE for withholding more than 50 millions of dollars worth of financial claims; a case which they won.
Bock, who still vehemently denies any wrongdoing, attests the FBI raids were retaliation for her successful case against the department.
“During the investigation, the FBI froze all of Feeding Our Future’s assets,” Bock wrote on the organization’s website. “Furthermore, since approximately May 2021, widespread negative press coverage involving Feeding Our Future has persisted even though no one has been criminally charged.”
However, after the raids and with the mounting evidence against their case the nonprofit agreed to drop its lawsuit against the department, the court filing stated.