FBI number crunchers track taxpayer cash to house, vehicle purchases in Feeding Our Future trial

The final witness for the prosecution in the Feeding Our Future trial told jurors how she traced the defendants’ alleged purchases of vehicles, property and airline tickets back to taxpayer-funded child nutrition programs.

Seven Twin Cities-area defendants face federal charges, for allegedly stealing $47 million in meal funds by exploiting pandemic-era rule changes that allowed restaurants to participate the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which are operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and managed on the state level by the Minnesota Department of Education.

In testimony Friday, FBI forensic accountant Lacra Blackwell focused on the money laundering counts that the defendants face. Blackwell showed jurors a series of flowcharts that traced funds from the programs via the nonprofits Feeding Our Future and Partners in Nutrition to the defendants’ businesses.

Blackwell and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Ebert showed the jury checks that the defendants allegedly wrote to property title companies and vehicle dealerships.

In one example, defendant Mohamed Ismail is alleged to have paid off the last $137,000 of his mortgage with public money paid to his Shakopee restaurant based on fraudulent reimbursement requests for kids’ meals. Blackwell traced the cash to Ismail’s personal account, then to his mortgage company.

Jurors also heard about how Ismail’s business partner, Said Farah, allegedly purchased four new vehicles over four months in 2021 in a similar way, including a Tesla and a Porsche.

Blackwell is the last of 33 prosecution witnesses to testify. The others included apartment managers who said they saw few signs of people at their buildings distributing meals to children during the pandemic.

A former employee of Feeding Our Future who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the government testified two weeks ago about how he helped others set up fake meal sites. Jurors also heard from 10 investigators, including FBI and IRS agents and the forensic accountants who analyzed tens of thousands of pages of financial records.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.