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A senior aide to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has left City Hall, following revelations that the staffer allegedly purchased property last year with federal money meant to feed disadvantaged children.
In a federal court filing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota levels allegations against Abdi Nur Salah, who until today served as Frey’s senior policy aide. The court documents say Abdi co-purchased a south Minneapolis apartment building with money that was “traceable to the fraud and money laundering scheme” involving Feeding Our Future, a nonprofit organization under federal investigation.
Sahan Journal called a spokesperson for Frey at 1 p.m. on Thursday to ask about the allegations against the mayor’s senior policy aide. At 5 p.m, the spokesperson emailed Sahan Journal with a statement: “Abdi Salah is no longer an employee of Mayor Frey’s office. His last date of employment was today.”
The mayor’s spokesperson confirmed Frey learned of the allegations involving Abdi today through Sahan Journal. At press time, the mayor’s office did not answer additional questions about the terms of Abdi’s departure.
To date, no one including Abdi has been charged in the food fraud investigation. Abdi did not respond to a message seeking comment, sent early Thursday afternoon to his city email address. A city phone number for him appeared to be out of service.
The FBI alleges that Feeding Our Future obtained millions of dollars through two federal programs meant to feed children, and funneled the money to people who spent it for personal use.
Between 2018 and 2021, Feeding Our Future accessed $244 million of federal child nutrition money. The FBI alleges that little of this money actually went to feed children. In a series of search warrants, the agency lists tens of millions of dollars allegedly redirected toward personal spending, including luxury cars, expensive property, and high-end travel.
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Feeding Our Future executive director Aimee Bock has denied any wrongdoing, telling Sahan Journal that the federal money actually bought food that went to families and children. She added that most of the people named in the search warrants represented for-profit food distribution companies, and that she lacked the authority to monitor how they spent funds received through Feeding Our Future.
Investigators list properties for future forfeiture–including one purchased by Abdi Salah
Abdi Salah was not named in the original set of unsealed search warrants.
In a separate federal court filing, dated January 21, 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office lists 14 properties, including the one Abdi allegedly helped purchase, and connects them to the alleged fraud. It is this document that connects the misappropriated food funds to Abdi.
Abdi, according to the court filing, founded a company called Stone Bridge Development, which the U.S. Attorney’s Office says received “fraudulently obtained” federal nutrition funds between February and May 2021. (Filings with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office list Abdi N. Salah in the incorporation documents for Stone Bridge Development.)
The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges that between February and December 2021, Stone Bridge received $900,000 in checks from “proceeds of fraudulently obtained” child nutrition money.
In addition, federal prosecutors allege Abdi used federal child nutrition money for personal spending, although the court filings don’t provide more details about these claims.
On October 29, 2021, the court filing alleges, Abdi and an unnamed business partner received a $386,000 cashier’s check from Stone Bridge Development. Prosecutors allege that $200,000 of this money was “traceable to payments from Feeding Our Future.”
They also allege that Abdi and his business partner used the $386,000 cashier’s check to buy a four-unit apartment building in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is seeking to recover the property through forfeiture, along with several other properties allegedly tied to the Feeding Our Future embezzlement scheme.
A spokesperson with the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the court filing or the wider investigation of Feeding Our Future.
A longtime aide in City Hall
Abdi has been working in Minneapolis City Hall for close to a decade.
Abdi served as Frey’s senior policy aide during Frey’s entire mayoral tenure, according to his Linkedin profile. His tasks include leading initiatives in transit, education, public works, and elections.
Before this job, Abdi served as a senior policy aide for the Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame, who currently heads the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office lists Abdi as a relative of Abdulkadir Nur Salah, a co-owner of Safari Restaurant and Event Center. Last month, Frey’s office confirmed to Sahan Journal that Abdi and Abdulkadir are brothers.
FBI search warrant affidavits unsealed last month allege that Abdulkadir used stolen child nutrition money to buy a $2.8 million Minneapolis mansion to use as an office building. Abdulkadir and five other men named in the search warrant collectively donated $6,000 to Frey’s reelection campaign last year. After the allegations in the search warrant became public, Frey stated that he would not keep the donations.
Update: February 17, 5:40 p.m. This is a breaking story and has been updated with new information about Abdi Salah’s departure from City Hall.