Man connected to Feeding Our Future probe arrested trying to leave country

Ismail and "other co-conspirators" are accused of laundering and misappropriating over $30 million through various shell companies for nearly two years.

Mohamed Jama Ismail/Sherburne County Jail

A Minnesota man who has emerged as a “target” in the Feeding Our Future scandal was recently arrested while trying to leave the U.S. for Kenya.

On Wednesday afternoon, FBI agents arrested Mohamed Jama Ismail, 49, at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and charged him with one count of passport fraud.

Ismail is believed to be the first arrested individual with alleged ties to the Feeding Our Future scandal, though he has not been arrested in connection to the scandal itself.

His alleged company, Empire Cuisine & Market LLC, was a contracted food vendor with Feeding Our Future, the nonprofit accused of defrauding the U.S. government of millions of dollars and spending the money on luxury cars, homes, and vacations.

Empire Cuisine & Market, allegedly co-owned by Ismail and a business partner, was one of several companies discovered to be receiving a “suspiciously high amount of reimbursements under the Federal Child Nutrition Program,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Ismail and “other co-conspirators” are accused of laundering and misappropriating over $30 million through various shell companies for nearly two years. More than $800,000 appears to have been wired from Empire Cuisine & Market to “entities in China,” while more than $700,000 was routed through Empire Enterprises LLC to Kenya.

According to Sahan Journal, Ismail’s home was one of several raided by the FBI in January as part of the Feeding Our Future investigation. Agents seized Ismail’s passport, two firearms, bank checks, a watch, a screen projector, an iPhone, and more.

Ismail made his first court appearance on Thursday. He is accused of lying on a new passport application in March, wherein he claimed he “lost” his old passport and had filed a police report to recover it. The Savage Police Department, however, said he never filed any such police report.

Roughly one month after obtaining the “new” passport, Ismail used it to check in to his flight out of Minneapolis to Nairobi, Kenya, with a layover at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands. FBI agents then swooped in and arrested him as he was boarding the aircraft.


Evan Stambaugh

Evan Stambaugh is a freelance writer who had previously been a sports blogger. He has a BA in theology and an MA in philosophy.