Large-scale fraud in the US: companies received millions for non-existent food aid

Large-scale fraud in the US: companies received millions for non-existent food aid
Large-scale fraud in the US: companies received millions for non-existent food aid

In the US state of Minnesota, 48 people have been charged in one of the largest pandemic-related fraud cases to date. They claimed to provide tens of thousands of children from poor families with millions of meals through specially set up businesses. For this, they received a total of more than 240 million dollars (almost 242 million euros) from the state, American media reported on Tuesday. The Minnesota District Attorney now says they billed the government for meals they didn’t serve to children who didn’t exist.

The dozens of defendants had founded companies between 2018 and 2021 that claimed to offer free food to children in need, only to get the money for those so-called meals back from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to the indictment, the money was mainly used to buy luxury cars, real estate abroad and other goods. The given lists of children also turned out not to exist; lists of names were compiled using the website listofrandomnames.comreports The New York Times.

One of the prime suspects in the case is government official Aimee Bock, founder of the non-profit organization Feeding Our Future. She sponsored all the businesses through her foundation, which ironically had been designated a fraud watchdog by the state of Minnesota. For example, Feeding Our Future is said to have approved nearly two hundred food organizations. According to the indictment, Bock and others in her organization submitted requests to the ministry for the disbursement of the funds in exchange for 10 to 15 percent of the money.

Restaurants bribed

The large-scale fraud could take place almost unseen because of the corona crisis. In fact, during the pandemic, some of the standard requirements for locations in food programs were waived. The Department of Agriculture allowed food to be distributed in restaurants outside of educational programs. In this way, for example, two suspects could bribe a restaurant owner for $ 40,000 a month to use his restaurant. At that location, they then billed nearly 150,000 meals a month on the names of 2,000 children — about half of all children in the local school district, according to justice. Of these, only 33 students turned out to be real.

Another suspect claimed to provide two meals a day to a total of 5,000 children, all from a small apartment. In addition, the judicial authorities noticed that the lists of names were the same every day. So no child was ever sick or absent. Prosecutors also say it cannot be that the companies “served these quantities of meals only within days or weeks of incorporation, and despite having few staff and little to no experience.” The investigation is still ongoing and it is not yet known when the case will be heard.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Largescale fraud companies received millions nonexistent food aid

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