In the US, 47 people have been charged with stealing $250 million from a special fund during the coronavirus pandemic. The money was meant to feed needy children. “Instead, they bought luxury cars, houses, jewelry and vacation rentals abroad,” prosecutors say.
The US Department of Justice is talking about the largest corona fraud detected to date. The suspects have been charged with conspiracy, fraud, money laundering, bribery and receiving.
The scam involved a network of shell companies Feeding our future, a nonprofit organization based in Minnesota. Aimee Bock, 41, the nonprofit’s founder and director, is seen by prosecutors as the mastermind. Before the corona pandemic, his non-profit organization effectively provided food to underprivileged children, but during Covid-19 he rallied all kinds of people around him to set up fake sites in Minnesota.
All of this will push back massive government support. Feeding Our Future increased federal funding from $3.4 million in 2019 to $200 million in 2021. “In total, Feeding Our Future fraudulently obtained more than $240 million during the pandemic,” the indictment states.
To further their ruse, the defendants filed false bills for meals and created lists of false names of children to whom meals were allegedly provided. In total, the 47 suspects submitted receipts for 125 million meals. One defendant alleged that the government was feeding 5,000 children a day in a small apartment.
Suspects have been able to go about their business undisturbed for a long time because the spending of relief funds during the corona was more consistent than usual. Getting food to the children as soon as possible is a priority.
“A brutal scheme of shocking proportions,” said attorney Andrew M. Luger said. “The suspects misused a program designed to provide nutritious food to children in need during the pandemic. Instead, they prioritized their own greed and stole more than a quarter of a billion dollars in federal money to buy luxury cars, homes, jewelry and beach vacation rentals abroad.
According to prosecutors, the suspects bought homes in Minnesota, Kenya and Turkey and took international trips with the money. At a news conference Tuesday, Luger said an undetermined number of people had been arrested in the morning, but some of the suspects were not currently in the United States.