It is the “largest pandemic fraud” in the US
Ethiopians are among 47 people who have been charged in connection with a fraud scheme in the US involving Feeding Our Future. The alleged fraud is said to be the largest pandemic fraud in the country, involving USD 250 million.
The defendants are charged across six separate indictments with charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and bribery. The defendants are suspected of creating dozens of shell companies to enroll in the program as Federal Child Nutrition Program sites, while allegedly creating shell companies to receive and launder the proceeds of their fraudulent scheme.
The defendants submitted false invoices purporting to document the purchase of food to be served to children at the sites and submitted fake attendance rosters purporting to list the names and ages of the children receiving meals at the sites each day, according to the US Department of Justice.
“These indictments, alleging the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme charged to date, underscore the Department of Justice’s sustained commitment to combating pandemic fraud and holding accountable those who perpetrate it,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “In partnership with agencies across the government, the Justice Department will continue to bring to justice those who have exploited the pandemic for personal gain and stolen from American taxpayers.”
Feeding Our Future’s founder and executive director, Aimee Bock, was among those indicted. She is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, and federal program bribery. She oversaw the USD 240 million fraud scheme carried out by sites under Feeding Our Future’s sponsorship, according to the US Department of Attorney.
An Ethiopian born Abdikerm Abdelahi Eidleh, 39, of Burnsville, Minnesota, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, and money laundering. Eidleh was an employee of Feeding Our Future who solicited and allegedly received bribes and kickbacks from individuals and sites under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future. Eidleh also created his own alleged fraudulent sites.
Ethiopian born-US nationals, Bekam Addissu, 39, Hadith Yusuf, 34, and Hanna Marekegn, 40, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Another six siblings who are originally from Ethiopia have also been charged with wire fraud, federal programs bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering.
Another Ethiopian-born US national, Liban Yasin Alishire, 42, the president and owner of Community Enhancement Services Inc., a company located in the JigJiga Business Center in Minneapolis, is charged with receiving more than USD 1.6 million in fraudulent Federal Child Nutrition Program funds. Ahmed Yasin and Khedir Jigre have also been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering in the same center. These three defendants have been accused of buying properties, including beach property, in Kenya.
Another defendant with links to Kenya, Salim Ahmed Said, 33, of Plymouth, Minnesota, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, federal program bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering. Said was the owner and operator of Safari Restaurant, a site that received more than USD 16 million in fraudulent Federal Child Nutrition Program funds, the US Department of Justice said.
“An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” the department said.