A former senior political aide to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and former chairman of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority — named by Frey — were among 48 people charged on Tuesday in what the federal government said was a scheme to defraud the government – and children in need – of 125 million meals. These are just the two most publicized examples of the tentacles of alleged fraud reaching deep into the city’s elite political circles.
In a statement to Reformer, the mayor’s office said, “We are grateful to U.S. Attorney (Andy) Luger for his work on this case. The allegations are appalling. »
Six people have also been charged with misusing federal child nutrition program funds through a nonprofit formed by Minneapolis City Councilman Jamal Osman. Prosecutors say just days after Osman stripped his name from the incorporation papers of the nonprofit called Stigma-Free International, he launched a scheme in which he eventually made more than $10 million. of federal funds, which have been diverted for personal use rather than providing free meals to the hungry. children.
Prosecutors allege Sharmarke Issa, who was appointed by Frey to chair the housing authority in 2019, used federal child nutrition funds to buy a $390,000 four-unit apartment complex in southern Minneapolis with former Frey aide Abdi Nur Salah. Salah was fired and Issa resigned in February, after the federal investigation went public with a massive FBI raid.
Issa started a company called Minnesota’s Somali Community and ran the Wacan restaurant, which fraudulently received more than $7.4 million in federal funds, according to charging documents. Issa is charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering.
Salah is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering. His brother, Abdulkadir Nur Salah, co-owner of the Safari restaurant, which prosecutors say fraudulently received more than $16 million in federal funds.
Salah and five other men named in a search warrant donated $6,000 to Frey’s campaign last year, which Frey said he would return, the Sahan Newspaper reported in January.
In October 2020, the state announced that it would no longer allow restaurants and other for-profit entities to register as meal delivery sites, and restaurants could only serve as food vendors. After that, the owners of the Safari restaurant and other associates began using a nonprofit created by Osman to continue carrying out the scheme, prosecutors say.
Osman and three others incorporated Stigma-Free International in August 2019, according to Secretary of State documents. But new documents were filed with the state showing new founders, minus Osman, in October 2020 — the same month federal prosecutors allege the nonprofit began stealing millions from federal funds.
Earlier this year, Osman Told Sahan Newspaper he left the nonprofit in June 2020 and has never worked with food programs or had any association with Feeding Our Future, which is the focus of the investigation.
Amy Bock, executive director of Feeding Our Future, tried to use her influence with the city for the backup. When the Minnesota Department of Education, which oversaw the food assistance program, attempted to shut down the alleged fraud, Bock sent Salah a draft board resolution questioning MDE’s commitment to children. minority children and business owners, according to public records. obtained speak Tribune of the Stars.
Salah sent the verbiage to Osman, who offered to present the resolution at a council meeting, but his assistant convinced him to wait after a meeting with the MDE. After the meeting, the resolution was never presented, the Tribune of the Stars reported.
After the state halted funding for Feeding Our Future in March 2021, three months later, Osman lent his support to Bock at a public event where he sat beside him, with other politicians, including Senator Omar Fateh. At the event, Osman spoke about the introduction of a council resolution criticizing the state for denying the nonprofit’s claims.
Two days after Osman’s name was removed from the nonprofit’s incorporation documents, Bock and Ahmed Artan, Stigma-Free’s new president, prepared applications to create feeding sites for children in Willmar under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future.
Feeding our Future is responsible for overseeing the extensive program conducted by dozens of feeder sites under their sponsorship. Prosecutors say Feeding our Future employees recruited people to open sites across the state, falsely claiming to serve meals to thousands of children a day within days to weeks of installation.
Prosecutors say Stigma-Free continued to milk the feds on millions, starting this month, setting up meal distribution sites throughout Minnesota, including Willmar, Mankato, St. Cloud, Waite Park and St.Paul.
For example, the Willmar site claimed to serve 2,000 to 3,000 children a day, seven days a week, from FaaFan. Prior to 2020, the small restaurant in downtown Willmar served a few dozen people a day, had less than $200,000 in annual revenue and rented the space for about $1,600 a month, prosecutors say.
That is until Abdikadir Ainanshe Mohamud, 30, of Fridley, offered $40,000 a month to use it for a stigma-free site, the charges allege. Prosecutors allege that Mohamud also set up a front company called Tunyar Trading which claimed to be a meal vendor.
Over the next year, Mohamud and others claimed to have served 1.6 million meals and received more than $4 million in federal funds. They said they served 2,000 children in an after-school program – the equivalent of almost half of the students enrolled in Willmar public schools, but only 33 matched the names of the students enrolled.
Mohamud reportedly transferred nearly $2 million to himself and others, and paid Feeding Our Future nearly $500,000 in administrative fees for sponsoring the Willmar site. Mohamud is accused of paying over $225,000 in kickbacks and kickbacks to a Feeding Our Future employee.
Mohamud was appointed to a public safety task force by Frey in December, but has since left the group.
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