Justice Department charges 47 people in $250 million COVID scheme involving child food program

The allegations may be the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme discovered so far.

Updated: September 20, 2022 - 1:40pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The Justice Department on Tuesday announced federal criminal charges against 47 people over their alleged involvement in a $250 million COVID-19 fraud scheme involving a federally-funded child nutrition program.

The allegations against Feeding our Future, a Minnesota-based nutrition program, may be the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme discovered so far, Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the defendants "went to great lengths to exploit a program designed to feed underserved children in Minnesota amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, fraudulently diverting millions of dollars designated for the program for their own personal gain,"

The dozens of defendants face charges of conspiracy, money laundering, wire fraud and bribery.

Feeding Our Future employees allegedly recruited individuals and groups to create more than 250 Federal Child Nutrition Program locations throughout Minnesota. They then falsely claimed to be serving thousands of meals to children by submitting fraudulent meal count sheets and food invoices, prosecutors said.

"These defendants exploited a program designed to provide nutritious food to needy children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, they prioritized their own greed, stealing more than a quarter of a billion dollars in federal funds to purchase luxury cars, houses, jewelry, and coastal resort property abroad," U.S. District Attorney Andrew Lunger said.

Federal authorities have estimated that up to $100 billion allocated for COVID relief has been lost to fraud.