At the same companies like Pfizer and Moderna made billions in profits, the United States government spent almost $4 trillion fighting COVID-19. While a great deal of those funds went to research, testing, and supplies, some went to help the struggling American people. And going even further, nonprofits like Feeding Our Future claimed to help feed hungry children through the COVID-19 food program. The only problem, on Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced they were bringing charges against 47 defendants in a scheme that led to them stealing $250 million from the COVID-19 program.
Minnesota authorities are not taking the situation lightly as they stated it was one of the largest fraud cases pertaining to COVID-19 yet. The defendants face charges of wire fraud, money laundering, bribery, and conspiracy. According to ABC News, “Prosecutors say the defendants created companies that claimed to be offering food to tens of thousands of children across Minnesota, then sought reimbursement for those meals through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food nutrition programs. Prosecutors say few meals were actually served, and the defendants used the money to buy luxury cars, property, and jewelry.”
Discussing the charges, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland noted, “These indictments, alleging the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme charged to date, underscore the Department of Justice’s sustained commitment to combating pandemic fraud and holding accountable those who perpetrate it. In partnership with agencies across government, the Justice Department will continue to bring to justice those who have exploited the pandemic for personal gain and stolen from American taxpayers.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray added, “Today’s indictments describe an egregious plot to steal public funds meant to care for children in need in what amounts to the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme yet. The defendants went to great lengths to exploit a program designed to feed underserved children in Minnesota amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, fraudulently diverting millions of dollars designated for the program for their own personal gain. These charges send the message that the FBI and our law enforcement partners remain vigilant and will vigorously pursue those who attempt to enrich themselves through fraudulent means.”
With the charges making headlines, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, Andrew M. Luger, admitted to the shocking greed behind the scheme. “These defendants exploited a program designed to provide nutritious food to needy children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, they prioritized their own greed, stealing more than a quarter of a billion dollars in federal funds to purchase luxury cars, houses, jewelry, and coastal resort property abroad. I commend the work of the skilled investigators and prosecutors who unraveled the lies, deception, and mountains of false documentation to bring this complex case to light.”