A man charged in connection with the Feeding Our Future case pleaded not guilty Friday to money laundering and wire fraud charges.
Mohamed Muse Noor, 37, is the latest person indicted in connection with what federal prosecutors say was a “brazen scheme” to steal around $250 million from two U.S. Department of Agriculture child nutrition programs by exploiting rule changes that the government implemented during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis alleges that Noor falsely claimed to have served about 580,000 meals to children after establishing his nonprofit news outlet Xogmaal Media Group as a meal site.
Noor allegedly collected $500,000 in taxpayer money and transferred about 80 percent of it to Abdikerm Eidleh, an employee of the nonprofit Feeding Our Future, to hide its origin.
Authorities say Noor used some of the the funds for personal expenses including $212,000 for his home mortgage and $50,000 for jewelry.
Prosecutors have charged 50 people in the case. Eidleh is among two defendants who have left the United States. In a September court filing, an investigator identified Eidleh as Noor’s cousin. But after entering his not guilty pleas Monday, Noor told reporters that he and Eidleh are not related.
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Attorney Jason Steck, who represents Noor and three other defendants, said Friday that prosecutors have wrongly assumed that some victims of the fraud were co-conspirators.
"Some of the people who were working at Feeding Our Future weren't just scamming the government and the Department of Education,” Steck said. “They were also scamming their so-called distributors and vendors beneath them as well."
FBI agents arrested Noor Sept. 26 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago after he allegedly booked a flight to Istanbul. As with most of the defendants in the case, prosecutors did not request pretrial detention for Noor after he surrendered his passport.
However Magistrate Judge Tony Leung ordered Noor to wear a GPS ankle bracelet so federal pretrial services officers can monitor his location.