47 People Indicted For Defrauding Pandemic Meal Program For Low-Income Kids

The Department of Justice has indicted 47 people on fraud charges for allegedly scamming the government out of at least $250 million. Prosecutors said the defendants exploited lax oversight of a food assistance program created to help feed low-income children. During the coronavirus pandemic, the rules of the program were eased to allow for-profit restaurants to participate and for the food to be distributed outside of schools and other educational settings.

One of the defendants is Aimee Bock, the founder and executive director of the charity Feeding Our Future. Officials accused Bock and others who worked for the charitable organization of submitting fraudulent claims for reimbursement and receiving kickbacks for their efforts.

One of the conspirators allegedly claimed they were feeding 5,000 children a day from their apartment. Another claimed they were serving meals to 2,500 every day from Monday through Friday.

In another instance, prosecutors said the defendants approached the owner of a restaurant that served only a dozen customers per day and offered them $40,000 a month to use their restaurant as part of the scheme. The defendants allegedly billed the government for 1.6 million meals over an 11-month period.

They submitted the names of roughly 2,000 children they were providing meals for. Investigators said that just 33 of the names matched students that lived in the area.

“These children were simply invented,” Andy Luger, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, said during a press conference.

Charges against the defendants include conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and bribery.

“This was a brazen scheme of staggering proportions,” Luger 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. I commend the work of the skilled investigators and prosecutors who unraveled the lies, deception, and mountains of false documentation to bring this complex case to light.”

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