UPDATED on Monday, October 31:
A federal grand jury formally indicted Mohamed Noor on October 28 in the Feeding Our Future fraud investigation, one month after prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against him.
The initial criminal complaint filed in late September against Mohamed, who is widely known as international video journalist Deeq Darajo, charged him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The recent formal indictment added two counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. The allegations against Deeq Darajo have not changed.
Deeq Darajo pleaded not guilty on October 28 to the charges in federal court. His attorney, Jason Steck, previously told Sahan Journal that authorities arrested Deeq Darajo in September while he was on a layover in Chicago, and that he was en route to a long-planned trip to Istanbul. Authorities held Deeq Darajo in custody for a few days and then allowed him to travel back to Minnesota on his own, Steck said.
Deeq Darajo drove back to Minnesota with a relative from Chicago, and has been placed on GPS monitoring ever since, Steck said.
Steck said the arrest and charges came as a complete surprise to his client.
“It shocked people a great deal because he’s a prominent figure in the community, he’s been a community servant for a very long time, and he was feeding kids,” Steck said.
Steck also said that Abdikerm Eidleh, a former employee of Feeding Our Future, has no familial relation to Deeq Darajo. Federal prosecutors identified the two as cousins, and wrote in Deeq Darajo’s indictment that he paid kickbacks to Abdikerm.
“He’s not his cousin. They have no family relationship at all. We have absolutely no idea where the cousin thing came from,” Steck said. “That’s just bizarre.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office has not responded to Steck’s assertion that the two are unrelated.
Steck alleges that Abdikerm is the true bad actor in the situation.
“That’s where the focus of this case should be,” Steck said. “Eidleh was scamming Deeq Darajo.”
Mohamed Noor, a prominent community journalist and owner of a media company in Minneapolis, was charged Monday with allegedly stealing federal money intended to feed low-income families.
Mohamed, who’s widely known as Deeq Darajo, becomes the 49th person charged as a result of the sprawling investigation that began with the now-defunct nonprofit Feeding Our Future. The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged 48 people on Tuesday in an alleged $250 million scheme to defraud the federal Child Nutrition Programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Federal authorities have called the scheme the “largest pandemic fraud in the United States.”
Prosecutors allege Deeq Darajo booked a flight and was trying to flee the country to avoid prosecution. His flight to Turkey was scheduled to leave the Twin Cities Monday, September 26, at 8:00 a.m.
FBI agents arrested Deeq Darajo at O’Hare Airport in Chicago on Monday, according to FBI spokesperson Cyndi Barrington.
Deeq Darajo, a soft spoken broadcast journalist, was a ubiquitous presence in the Somali community. He attended and covered nearly all major events and news in Minnesota for his more than 135,000 Facebook followers. Deeq Darajo had recently returned from a trip to Somalia.
He incorporated Xogmaal Media Group in late 2020, according to registration documents filed with the Minnesota secretary of state. Xogmaal Media has more than half a million followers on Facebook and 671,000 subscribers on its YouTube channel. The media outlet covers news and records events, weddings, and school graduations for Somalis across East Africa and in the diaspora. One of its most recent Facebook posts showed a photo of U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, followed by the news that he had charged dozens of people with defrauding the federal government in the case that has now swept up Deeq Darajo, as well.
State records show that Xogmaal Media Group was registered with the Minnesota Department of Education as a food site from December 2020 through September 2021.
Xogmaal used Feeding Our Future as a sponsor to receive federal funding for meals through the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program.
Federal prosecutors say Deeq Darajo is the cousin of Abdikerm Eidleh, a former Feeding Our Future employee who federal prosecutors allege took more than $3 million in kickbacks from food sites to enroll them in the Child Nutrition Programs.
The charges say a Feeding Our Future employee expressed concern about enrolling Xogmaal in the Child Nutrition Programs in February 2021.
“We took a lot of organization [sic] that don’t work with children or are advocate, [sic] I am just realizing that now,” an unnamed employee wrote to Feeding Our Future Executive Director Aimee Bock in an email, according to the charges. “For example xogmaal is a TV show program. They have no interest with children. These are the things we need to clean up.”
Bock still submitted Xogmaal’s application to the Minnesota Department of Education, which administers the Child Nutrition Programs for the state, according to the charges. Soon Xogmaal claimed to be feeding 1,000 children a day, seven days a week. By April 2021, Xogmaal claimed to feed 1,500 kids a day, seven days a week, according to the charges.
In all, prosecutors say Xogmaal received close to $500,000 in food-aid money. The charges allege he transferred $387,000 of this to shell companies controlled by Abdikerm.
Abdikerm then allegedly used much of this money for personal purposes, including $212,000 on mortgage payments for his home, $88,000 on cryptocurrency, $73,000 on currency trading brokerage, and $50,000 on jewelry.
Abdikerm is one of three defendants in the Feeding Our Future case currently out of the country. Prosecutors say he is a fugitive in Somalia.
Before the federal investigation into Feeding Our Future went public, Xogmaal filmed and posted a celebration the nonprofit held at Banadir Hall in June 2021. This came right after a state judge found the Minnesota Department of Education in contempt of court for not processing food site applications fast enough.
The video featured supportive remarks about Feeding Our Future from State Senator Omar Fateh, Minneapolis City Council Member Jamal Osman, and Ali Isse, a district deputy director for Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. The video ended with several women dancing around Bock and celebrating her.
One day after the FBI raids on Feeding Our Future became public, Xogmaal made the video private and unviewable.
Additional reporting by Izzy Stroobandt.
CORRECTION: The spelling of FBI spokesperson Cyndi Barrington’s name has been updated.