The federal courthouse in Minneapolis on September 20, 2022. Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

A Minneapolis man pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing more than $1 million in the Feeding our Future fraud case and using the money for personal purchases, including a BMW. 

Abdikadir Kadiye, 51, is the twelfth defendant to plead guilty to defrauding federal food-aid programs during the COVID pandemic. He admitted to using his business to operate sites that claimed to provide more than 400,000 meals to children in Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, and Minneapolis.

Abdikadir pleaded in federal court to one count of wire fraud in a deal reached with prosecutors Thursday. He was ordered to pay $867,987 in restitution. 

Abdikadir’s sentencing date was not scheduled Thursday. His recommended sentence is between 27 and 33 months in prison, according to the plea agreement. The government will seize several of his assets purchased with the stolen money. He will remain out of custody on supervised release. 

The food-aid scheme centered around the now-defunct nonprofit, Feeding Our Future, and allegedly involved dozens of suspects who stole more than $250 million from the federal government that was meant to feed underprivileged children. It is the largest pandemic-related fraud case in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

A total of 60 defendants were charged in the case. 

Abdikadir appeared in court Thursday in a checkered button down shirt, slacks, and glasses. He occasionally used a Somali interpreter, but mostly answered questions directly. 

“I’m guilty,” he told U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel. 

Abdikadir pleaded guilty to wire fraud for submitting a falsified roster of more than 1,300 children who he claimed to be feeding in Eden Prairie. 

“They’re all fake,” he said.

The food-aid fraud involved sponsor organizations like Feeding Our Future receiving federal funds through the Minnesota Department of Education. The sponsor organizations then distributed those funds to food vendors and food sites, which were supposed to provide ready-to-eat meals to local children. 

Several organizations in the money chain reported serving thousands more meals than they actually did, or simply never served any at all in order to receive more federal reimbursement dollars, according to prosecutors. Those funds were then passed through various shell companies before allegedly being pocketed by the perpetrators, who are accused of spending the money on homes, expensive cars, and a Kenyan beach resort, among other items.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged Abdikadir in March with conspiracy to commit money laundering and three counts of wire fraud for his role in the case.

On his invoices, Abdikadir listed names for children that did not exist and received $1.1 million dollars. His site in Eden Prairie claimed it served 111,000 meals in two months in 2021. He also received kickbacks from co-defendants, including $200,000 allegedly from Haji Salad and nearly $1.4 million from Abulkadir Awale, who pleaded guilty in June, in exchange for listing their businesses as vendors, which in turn got them paid with the federal funds. 

“I feel sorry for what I did,” Abdikadir said. 

Abdikadir spent that money on luxury items, including a $100,000 BMW. Prosecutors say he used hundreds of thousands in stolen funds to buy properties in south Minneapolis, including laundering $20,000 through a bogus company in an attempt to purchase a laundromat. 

“I tried to buy it,” Abdikadir said when asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Ebert about the laundromat.

Abdikadir explained that the money went to an earnest payment, but that another person bought the laundromat. 

Abdikadir used his business, Hobyo Health Care Foundation, to gain contracts with the Federal Child Nutrition Program at three sites. His sites were approved through Partners in Quality Care, which is identified in charging documents as “Sponsor A.” 

Asked Thursday how the process worked, Abdikadir explained that he would work with food vendors who would send invoices to the sponsor, who would then request payments from the Minnesota Department of Education. 

“Who is Sponsor A? Kara Lomen?” Abdikadir asked the prosecutor, naming the former executive director of the Partners in Quality Care.

Other defendants also received money through Partners in Quality Care, which acted as a sponsor organization like Feeding Our Future. No staff members at Partners in Quality Care, including Kara Lomen, have been charged in the case. Feeding Our Future’s former executive director, Aimee Bock, was charged for her alleged role.

Andrew Hazzard is a staff reporter with Sahan Journal who focuses on climate change and environmental justice issues. After starting his career in daily newspapers in Mississippi and North Dakota, Andrew...