“These indictments, alleging the largest pandemic fraud scheme indicted to date, underscore the Department of Justice’s continued commitment to combating pandemic fraud and holding accountable those who commit it.” , Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
The alleged scheme centered on the federal child nutrition program, which is administered by the Department of Agriculture to provide free meals to children from low-income families. Congress has significantly expanded the program during the pandemic, including allowing a wider range of organizations to distribute food to more locations.
Changes to federal law have opened the door for Feeding Our Future to play a bigger role in meal distribution, according to the Justice Department, and the group has shelled out more than $200 million during 2021. In doing so, however, federal prosecutors alleged that the company’s founder and chief executive, Aimee Bock, oversaw an extensive fraud scheme across Minnesota.
The company could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The Covid Money Trail
It was the biggest burst of emergency spending in US history: two years, six laws and more than $5 trillion intended to break the deadly grip of the coronavirus pandemic. The money has spared America’s economy from ruin and put vaccines in millions of weapons, but it has also invited unprecedented levels of fraud, abuse and opportunism.
In a year-long investigation, the Washington Post is following the covid money trail to figure out what happened to all that money.
Bock recruited individuals and companies who “fraudulently claimed to serve meals to thousands of children a day,” prosecutors allege. Some of the defendants set up shell companies to enroll in the program and serve as meal distribution sites, according to the government. In other cases, the Justice Department alleges defendants submitted the names of fake kids getting meals and fake bills for food purchases that never happened.
Feeding Our Future ultimately raised $18 million in administrative fees that the government said it was “not entitled” to receive. Employees of the company also appeared to solicit “bribes and kickbacks” from individuals and companies it sponsors, according to the government.