Attorney General Keith Ellison is seeking to dissolve nearly two dozen nonprofits that were allegedly involved in a federal food-aid fraud scandal.
Ellison’s office filed civil lawsuits Wednesday to shut down 23 nonprofits that were either established or reestablished shortly before the fraud allegedly started in 2020. The scandal, known as the Feeding Our Future case, involved several dozen suspects stealing an estimated $250 million in federal COVID-19 relief dollars meant to feed underprivileged children, prosecutors have said.
Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger has charged 60 defendants in the case with counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering. Fourteen defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing. The remaining defendants have pleaded not guilty.
The alleged 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. Instead, federal prosecutors say, the defendants spent most of the money on private purchases like luxury homes and flashy cars.
Most of the 23 nonprofits that Ellison’s office is suing reported that they operated food sites that distributed meals to children, according to a news release issued Wednesday by the attorney general. Ellison’s office said that an investigation by its Charities Division found that all of the nonprofits misused bank records and didn’t follow state and federal reporting guidelines.
None of the nonprofits named in the news release cooperated with the Attorney General’s investigation into them, according to Ellison’s office.
“Nonprofits are supposed to benefit the public—not defraud it,” Ellison said in the news release. “Most nonprofits work hard and do good work to help the people of Minnesota—but not these sham organizations. I am seeking to permanently shut down these sham nonprofits so they can’t be revived to defraud the public again.”
The 23 nonprofits are:
- Academy for Youth Excellence
- Advanced Youth Athletic Development
- African Chamber of Commerce Education
- Bet On Better Future
- Community Enhancement Services Inc.
- Gedo Community Services
- Hobyo Health Care Foundation
- Hope Academy for Youth & Women Empowerment
- Minnesota African Chamber of Commerce
- Minnesota’s Somali Community
- Multiple Community Services, MCS
- Optimum Community Services
- Serving Younger Generation
- Somali American Faribault Education
- South West Metro Youth
- Stigma-Free International
- The Free Minded Institute
- United Enrichment with Heart
- Unity Social Service
- Urban Advantage Services
- Xogmaal Media Group and Xogmaal Services
- Youth Higher Educational Achievement
- Youth Inventor’s Lab
The lawsuits follow moves last year from the Attorney General’s Office to seek the dissolution of Feeding Our Future, which has since closed its doors.