Department of Justice Charges 47 People in “Largest Pandemic Relief Fraud Scheme Yet”

The Department of Justice filed charges against 47 people on Tuesday for allegedly taking part in a “$250 million fraud plan” that authorities call the “largest pandemic relief fraud scheme yet.” The Washington Examiner reports that federal prosecutors have charged Aimee Bock, the founder of Feeding Our Future, and 46 other individuals with conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and bribery. The group is accused of opening fictitious Federal Child Nutrition Program sites that purported to feed hungry families. Instead, they used shell corporations to transfer money to themselves.

FBI Director Christopher Wray stated in a press release, “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. The defendants went to great lengths to exploit a program designed to feed underserved children in Minnesota amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The suspected con artists claimed to have fed thousands of families under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future just days after setting up fake websites. According to the DOJ, the group’s federal intake soared from $3.4 million in 2019 to nearly $200 million in 2021. Prosecutors claim that in exchange for sponsoring the fake websites, Feeding Our Future received over $18 million in administrative fees to which it was not “entitled.” The DOJ also contends they received kickbacks from individuals and businesses promoted by the organization veiled as “consulting fees.”

The organization established more than 250 locations throughout Minnesota and dispersed more than $240 million in “fraudulently obtained” funds. Prosecutors are bringing charges against the 47 suspects in six different indictments. Following the pandemic, authorities fought back against widespread fraud that hampered COVID-19 relief efforts. In August, the Secret Service reportedly recovered $286 million in stolen pandemic funds. The agency believes that around $100 billion in COVID funding has been lost or stolen since the start of the pandemic. In March, the DOJ appointed a prosecutor to handle cases of misuse of COVID funds.

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