Five of seven defendants found guilty of most charges in first Feeding Our Future trial 

The trial lasted six weeks and was just the first of several expected trials in the case.

Seven defendants in the Feeding Our Future case and their attorneys in the Diane E. Murphy United States Courthouse for jury selection. (Credit: Cedric Hohnstadt)

Five of the seven defendants in the first Feeding Our Future fraud trial were found guilty of most, but not all, of the charges they faced by a federal jury Friday. Two others were acquitted of all charges.

The jury returned its verdict Friday afternoon after about four days of deliberations that began with two of the jurors being dismissed following an attempted bribe.

“The verdict confirms what we’ve known all along, which is that defendants falsified documents, they lied, and they fraudulently claimed to be feeding millions of meals to children in Minnesota during COVID,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Thompson said during a press conference after the verdict was read.

“The defendants took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to defraud the state of Minnesota and to steal tens of millions of dollars. This conduct was not just criminal, it was depraved and brazen.”

Abdiaziz Shafii Farah, Mohamed Jama Ismail, Abdimajid Mohamed Nur, Mukhtar Mohamed Shariff, and Hayat Mohamed Nur were each found guilty of the majority of the charges they faced, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release. Said Shafii Farah and Abdiwahab Maalim Aftin were each acquitted on all counts, according to KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse.

In total, nearly 70 Minnesotans (18 of whom have pleaded guilty) have been accused of defrauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Child Nutrition Program of at least $250 million meant to feed hungry children.

“The defendants’ fraud, like an aggressive cancer, spread and grew. As the evidence will make clear, the number of sham food sites and phony meal claims concocted by the defendants quickly snowballed through 2020 and 2021. At their fraudulent peak in March 2021, the defendants claimed to serve 2.7 million meals to children in just that month alone — an impossibility,” prosecutors wrote in a brief ahead of the first trial, which focused on the role of Shakopee-based restaurant Empire Cuisine & Market, and those connected to it, in perpetrating the fraud.

The trial lasted six weeks and was just the first of several expected trials in the case, which gets its name from the nonprofit at the center of the scandal.

“I am extraordinarily proud of the prosecution team and our law enforcement partners who have spent years investigating this highly complex and widespread fraud scheme,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger. “With today’s convictions, a total of 23 individuals have been held accountable for their roles in this egregious conspiracy to steal millions of taxpayer dollars.”

The convicted defendants in the first trial accounted for about $40 million in fraudulently obtained funds, Luger’s office said. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.

“The convicted defendants did not just defraud the government and taxpayers, they used hungry kids as part of a get-rich-quick scheme for the defendants. That’s just unacceptable,” Senate Majority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, said in a statement.

“These verdicts bring some justice, but there are many questions remaining on why state officials failed to stop more than $250 million in fraudulent payments from going to bad actors. We must do better to stop fraud at the outset to protect taxpayers and Minnesota families from ever being defrauded to this level again.”


Anthony Gockowski
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Anthony Gockowski is Editor-in-Chief of Alpha News. He previously worked as an editor for The Minnesota Sun and Campus Reform, and wrote for the Daily Caller.