A DFL state senator says he has returned $3,000 in campaign contributions from a woman accused of participating in a scheme to defraud the federal government of $250 million intended to feed hungry children.
Campaign finance records show Mekfira Hussein and her relatives contributed a combined $3,000 to Sen. John Hoffman’s campaign, the Center of the American Experiment’s Bill Glahn first reported. All of the donations were made on the same day last December.
Hoffman said he was made aware of the donations last Tuesday night, shortly after U.S. Attorney Andy Luger announced charges in the case.
“I was shocked to learn of this, and immediately on the morning of 9/21/2022 sought out who and how I can return the money. That afternoon, I wrote a check for all of the campaign donations from this individual and her family and that money is being returned to authorities in the U.S. Marshal’s office who are prosecuting the case, and they will ensure that all of the returned funds are handled appropriately,” Hoffman said in an email to Alpha News.
The Democrat from Champlin called the allegations in the indictments unsealed last week “shocking and indefensible.”
“The people who stole money that was meant to feed children must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. I support the efforts to bring them to account and the work being done to make sure something like this never happens again,” he added.
At least five other Democratic officeholders accepted donations from individuals charged in the case.
Hussein is the 48th defendant in the federal government’s sprawling investigation into Feeding Our Future and its associates.
“Rather than feed children, Hussein and others exploited the COVID-19 pandemic — and the resulting program changes — to enrich themselves by fraudulently misappropriating federal child nutrition program funds, which they spent for their own personal benefit on such expenditures as vehicles,” says an affidavit submitted to the court by FBI Special Agent Travis Wilmer.
According to the affidavit, Hussein purchased a one-way ticket to Ethiopia and was scheduled to depart the country Sept. 20 — the same day Luger announced charges against 47 other individuals for allegedly defrauding the federal Child Nutrition Programs of $250 million.
Hussein was arrested before the flight and charged with bribery in connection to the scheme, Sahan Journal first reported. She made her first court appearance Thursday and was released on the condition that she hand over her passport.
Authorities believe Feeding Our Future Executive Director Aimee Bock “oversaw” the scheme, “carried out by sites under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future.”
Hussein is accused of running one of those sites, called Shamsia Hopes, one of more than 250 meal sites sponsored by Feeding Our Future. Each food site is required to have a sponsor organization in order to participate in the programs.
Bock worked with a Feeding Our Future employee, Abdikerm Eidleh, to solicit bribes and kickbacks from the meal sites in exchange for Feeding Our Future’s sponsorship, according to an affidavit.
“Many of these bribes and kickbacks were disguised as consulting payments or other legitimate payments to shell companies created by Feeding Our Future employees,” the affidavit says.
Eidleh created several fake LLCs that he used to “receive and conceal” kickback payments, according to the affidavit. In total, he allegedly used these businesses to accept more than $3 million in kickbacks, some of which were from Hussein, the affidavit says.
There were multiple months in 2020 and 2021 where Hussein claimed to be serving meals to 5,000 or 10,000 children a day, every day, seven days a week. In all, she claimed to have served more than 3.4 million meals to children for a total of $9.5 million in federal reimbursements, the affidavit alleges. Shamsia Hopes received $6.8 million of these funds directly from Feeding Our Future between December 2020 and November 2021, authorities claim.
In reality, Hussein spent a “small fraction” of this money on food for children, instead using the funds on “personal expenditures for herself and her family,” authorities say.
As an example, they cite Hussein’s April 2021 purchase of a $93,000 Porsche Cayenne, which she purchased using a Shamsia Hopes check. She’s also accused of using money from the programs to make payments on a Tesla Model 3.
Authorities say Hussein transferred at least $4 million in Child Nutrition Programs funds to Oromia Feeds LLC, an alleged food vendor for Shamsia Hopes that was registered to Hussein’s apparent husband. Oromia Feeds’ address was the same as the couple’s home address.
The affidavit claims Oromia Feeds transferred at least $1 million to the account of Hussein’s apparent husband, $61,000 to Luther Brookdale Chevrolet, $52,000 to Boyer Trucks, $46,000 to Roesch Ford, and $173,000 to Pennymac Loan Services.
Hussein allegedly paid more than $80,000 in kickbacks to Eidleh. A 49th person was arrested in the case Monday.