Feds charge 50th defendant in Feeding Our Future case

A man points to a screen showing evidence
U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Andrew Luger (center) shows off photos on Sept. 20 of falsified meal cards that were used to claim thousands of children were participating in Feeding Our Future.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Prosecutors have charged a 50th person in an alleged scheme to defraud federal child nutrition programs. Abduljabar Hussein, 42, made his first court appearance Wednesday in St. Paul.

According to the indictment, Hussein created a company called Oramia Feeds, which purported to supply meals to Shamisa Hopes, a nonprofit that his wife Mekfira Hussein operated under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future.

Authorities say Aimee Bock, the founder of Feeding Our Future, was the ringleader of a “brazen” scheme to steal around $250 million from two child meal programs operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and managed on the state level by the Minnesota Department of Education.

Prosecutors allege the conspirators falsified invoices, put the names of non-existent children on reimbursement forms, and used a network shell companies to hide the origin of the funds. Bock and many of her co-defendants have pleaded not guilty.

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The Husseins, who are charged with wire fraud, bribery, and money laundering, have not entered pleas. As with most of their co-defendants, the government has not requested that they be jailed as the case moves forward. As a condition of their release, those charged had to surrender their passports to federal officials.

In 2020 and 2021, Mekfira Hussein allegedly claimed to have served 3.4 million meals, or about 5,000 per day seven days a week, to children at sites in Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, and Fridley.

In reality, prosecutors say, Shamisa Hopes provided “only a fraction of the meal amounts claimed.”

According to the indictment, Mekfira diverted $7.8 million to her husband's company, which allegedly took another nearly $1 million in federal funds separately.

Authorities say the couple spent the money on luxury vehicles and to pay off the mortgage on their Shakopee home. Prosecutors also allege they paid thousands of dollars in kickbacks to Feeding Our Future employee Abdikerm A. Eidleh, in exchange for their companies’ participation in the meal programs.

Eidleh is one of two defendants in the case that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis says are no longer in the United States. One defendant, Abdiwahab Maalim Aftin, had left the country but returned and entered a guilty plea on Sept. 29.

Three of the 50 defendants, Addissu Merdassa, Hanna Marekegn, and Hadith Yusuf Ahmed pleaded guilty last week.