Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Feds Seek Woman Who Left Bag of $120,000 as Bribe With Promise of More at Home of Food Fraud Juror
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 3 weeks ago on
June 4, 2024

Federal authorities in Minnesota are investigating an attempted bribery of a juror in a major food fraud case, involving a bag of cash containing $120,000. (AP/US Attorney's Office for Minnesota)

Share

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

MINNEAPOLIS — Federal authorities in Minnesota have confiscated cellphones and taken all seven defendants into custody as investigators try to determine who attempted to bribe a juror with a bag of cash containing $120,000 to get her to acquit them on charges of stealing more than $40 million from a program meant to feed children during the pandemic.

The case went to the jury late Monday afternoon, after the juror, who promptly reported the attempted bribe to police, was dismissed and replaced with an alternate. The incident had further ripple effects before deliberations resumed Tuesday — when another juror was replaced after a family member asked about the the attempted bribe.

According to an FBI agent’s affidavit, a woman rang the doorbell at the home of “Juror #52” in the Minneapolis suburb of Spring Lake Park late Sunday, the night before the case went to the jury. The juror wasn’t home, but a relative answered the door. The woman handed the relative a gift bag with a curly ribbon and images of flowers and butterflies and said it was a “present” for the juror.

“The woman told the relative to tell Juror #52 to say not guilty tomorrow and there would be more of that present tomorrow,” the agent wrote. “After the woman left, the relative looked in the gift bag and saw it contained a substantial amount of cash.”

Investigation into the Bribery Attempt

The juror called police right after she got home and gave them the bag of cash. It held $100, $50 and $20 bills totaling around $120,000. The FBI took the bag from Spring Lake Park police on Monday morning and interviewed the juror.

The woman who left the bag knew the juror’s first name, the agent said. Names of the jurors have not been made public, but the list of people who had access to it included prosecutors and defense lawyers —- and the seven defendants themselves.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel and attorneys for both sides learned about the attempted bribe Monday morning. The judge ordered all seven defendants to surrender their cellphones at the request of the government so that investigators could look for evidence. She also ordered all seven taken into custody.

“It is highly likely that someone with access to the juror’s personal information was conspiring with, at a minimum, the woman who delivered the $120,000 bribe,” the FBI agent wrote, noting that the alleged fraud conspiracy at the heart of the trial involved electronic communications, including text messages and emails.

Before the case went to the jury late Monday afternoon, Brasel ordered them sequestered for deliberations. When one of them called home to say she’d been sequestered, a family member asked, “Is it because of the bribe?” The judge replaced that juror with an alternate, too.

Anyone involved in the attempted bribe could face federal charges of bribery of a juror and influencing a juror, with a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison.

Minneapolis FBI spokesperson Diana Freedman said Tuesday that she could not provide information about the ongoing investigation.

The Larger Fraud Case: Exploiting Pandemic Aid

The seven were the first of 70 defendants to go on trial in what federal prosecutors have called one of the largest COVID-19-related fraud cases in the country. They’ve described it as a massive scheme to exploit lax rules during the pandemic and steal from a program that was meant to provide meals to children in Minnesota.

Prosecutors have said the seven collectively stole over $40 million in a conspiracy that cost taxpayers $250 million. At the center of the alleged plot was a group called Feeding Our Future. Prosecutors say just a fraction of the money went to feed low-income kids, and that the rest was spent on luxury cars, jewelry, travel and property. Federal authorities say they have recovered about $50 million.

Eighteen other defendants have already pleaded guilty, while the rest are awaiting trial. Among them is Aimee Bock, the founder of Feeding our Future. She has maintained her innocence, saying she never stole and saw no evidence of fraud among her subcontractors.

The defendants are: Abdiaziz Shafii Farah, Mohamed Jama Ismail, Abdimajid Mohamed Nur, Said Shafii Farah, Abdiwahab Maalim Aftin, Mukhtar Mohamed Shariff and Hayat Mohamed Nur. The charges against them include wire fraud and money laundering. Shariff was the only defendant to testify and the only one to call witnesses on his behalf.

The food aid came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was administered by the state. Nonprofits and other partners under the program were supposed to serve meals to kids. Defendants allegedly produced invoices for meals that were never served, ran shell companies, laundered money, indulged in passport fraud, and accepted kickbacks.

An Associated Press analysis published last June documented how thieves across the country plundered billions in federal COVID-19 relief dollars. Fraudsters potentially stole more than $280 billion, while another $123 billion was wasted or misspent. Combined, the loss represented 10% of the $4.3 trillion the government disbursed in COVID relief by last fall. Nearly 3,200 defendants have been charged, according to the U.S. Justice Department. About $1.4 billion in stolen pandemic aid has been seized.

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Will Plead Guilty in Deal with US and Be Freed from Prison

DON'T MISS

Woman Tried to Drown 3-Year-Old Girl After Making Racist Comments, Police Say

DON'T MISS

Trump Vows ‘Largest Deportation in History’ if He Returns to White House

DON'T MISS

After FBI Raid, Defiant Oakland Mayor Says She Did Nothing Wrong and Will Not Resign

DON'T MISS

US is Expected to Send Ukraine $150 Million More in Munitions to Fight off Russia’s Attacks

DON'T MISS

Escalating Israel-Hezbollah Clashes Threaten to Spark Regional War and Force US into Conflict with Iran

DON'T MISS

Canelo Álvarez Inspires Big Crowd at Hispanic Foundation Gala

DON'T MISS

Car Dealerships in North America Revert to Pens and Paper After Cyberattacks on Software Provider

DON'T MISS

Why Every California Student Should Have Access to ‘Gifted’ Classes

DON'T MISS

Builder Says Fresno’s New Home Space Is Vanishing. Where Will Buyers Go?

UP NEXT

Woman Tried to Drown 3-Year-Old Girl After Making Racist Comments, Police Say

UP NEXT

Trump Vows ‘Largest Deportation in History’ if He Returns to White House

UP NEXT

After FBI Raid, Defiant Oakland Mayor Says She Did Nothing Wrong and Will Not Resign

UP NEXT

US is Expected to Send Ukraine $150 Million More in Munitions to Fight off Russia’s Attacks

UP NEXT

Escalating Israel-Hezbollah Clashes Threaten to Spark Regional War and Force US into Conflict with Iran

UP NEXT

Canelo Álvarez Inspires Big Crowd at Hispanic Foundation Gala

UP NEXT

Car Dealerships in North America Revert to Pens and Paper After Cyberattacks on Software Provider

UP NEXT

Why Every California Student Should Have Access to ‘Gifted’ Classes

UP NEXT

Builder Says Fresno’s New Home Space Is Vanishing. Where Will Buyers Go?

UP NEXT

Stefani Says Goodbye! Booroojian Is Retiring After 42 Years on KSEE 24

After FBI Raid, Defiant Oakland Mayor Says She Did Nothing Wrong and Will Not Resign

12 hours ago

US is Expected to Send Ukraine $150 Million More in Munitions to Fight off Russia’s Attacks

12 hours ago

Escalating Israel-Hezbollah Clashes Threaten to Spark Regional War and Force US into Conflict with Iran

12 hours ago

Canelo Álvarez Inspires Big Crowd at Hispanic Foundation Gala

13 hours ago

Car Dealerships in North America Revert to Pens and Paper After Cyberattacks on Software Provider

13 hours ago

Why Every California Student Should Have Access to ‘Gifted’ Classes

13 hours ago

Builder Says Fresno’s New Home Space Is Vanishing. Where Will Buyers Go?

14 hours ago

Stefani Says Goodbye! Booroojian Is Retiring After 42 Years on KSEE 24

14 hours ago

A Man Missing for 10 Days in a California Forest Is Found Alive

15 hours ago

Rep. Jamaal Bowman Curses AIPAC in Profanity-Laced Campaign Remarks

15 hours ago

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Will Plead Guilty in Deal with US and Be Freed from Prison

WASHINGTON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will plead guilty to a felony charge in a deal with the U.S. Justice Department that will free...

11 hours ago

11 hours ago

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Will Plead Guilty in Deal with US and Be Freed from Prison

11 hours ago

Woman Tried to Drown 3-Year-Old Girl After Making Racist Comments, Police Say

11 hours ago

Trump Vows ‘Largest Deportation in History’ if He Returns to White House

12 hours ago

After FBI Raid, Defiant Oakland Mayor Says She Did Nothing Wrong and Will Not Resign

12 hours ago

US is Expected to Send Ukraine $150 Million More in Munitions to Fight off Russia’s Attacks

12 hours ago

Escalating Israel-Hezbollah Clashes Threaten to Spark Regional War and Force US into Conflict with Iran

13 hours ago

Canelo Álvarez Inspires Big Crowd at Hispanic Foundation Gala

13 hours ago

Car Dealerships in North America Revert to Pens and Paper After Cyberattacks on Software Provider

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend