Feeding Our Future founder says state regulators hid documents, used burner phones

A woman wearing a face mask sits at a table
Aimee Bock speaks with reporters from the Sahan Journal at Feeding Our Future headquarters.
Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal 2022

The alleged leader of a conspiracy to steal hundreds of millions of dollars in hunger relief funds is herself claiming wrongdoing on the part of state officials who oversee the programs. Feeding Our Future founder Aimee Bock said staff at the Minnesota Department of Education intentionally mislabeled documents and used burner phones to thwart a lawsuit.

Bock, 43, is among 70 defendants in a case first filed in September 2022. Seventeen people have pleaded guilty. After a grand jury returned the initial batch of indictments, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger called the alleged scheme the largest COVID-related fraud that the Justice Department has prosecuted to date.

For decades, federal child nutrition programs have provided meals to children from low-income households when school was not in session. During the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture allowed restaurants to provide the meals. Investigators allege that Bock and the other defendants set up phony meal sites and collected millions of dollars after submitting fraudulent invoices.

Bock’s claims of a coverup by the Minnesota Department of Education are separate from the federal case and are part of her response to a civil suit that MDE filed in 2023. 

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MDE, which oversees the USDA programs on the state level, sued Bock to recover $584,000 in legal fees that it incurred defending an earlier lawsuit that Feeding Our Future filed in late 2020. The now-defunct nonprofit had alleged that MDE slow-walked the nonprofit’s meal site applications and improperly shut down five sites. MDE resumed its payments to Feeding Our Future under threat of continued legal action.  

Feeding Our Future dropped its lawsuit in early 2022, soon after the FBI searched about a dozen locations tied to the alleged fraud including the nonprofit’s offices and Bock’s house. 

black text on blue background screenshot
A court filing by Feeding Our Future founder Aimee Bock includes this screenshot of a 2021 message that an MDE staff member sent to colleagues.
Ramsey County court filing

In her Jan. 31 filing, Bock includes more than a dozen screenshots of communications among several education department officials from mid-2021. She said the images prove that MDE tried to avoid turning over documents to Feeding Our Future attorneys as part of the discovery process in the 2020 lawsuit.

Two of the messages reference burner phones. In another, an MDE staffer writes that she tried to remove Feeding Our Future references from electronic documents to avoid “an IT hit,” meaning a computer search for the organization’s name. 

Other screenshots show MDE staffers urging the use of vague file names and personal electronic devices, and “stop pay” is deliberately misspelled as “stoop pais.”

Bock also includes parts of deposition transcripts in which MDE Assistant Commissioner Daron Korte testified that he had no reason to suspect that Feeding Our Future was engaged in fraud.  

Bock pleaded not guilty soon after the federal grand jury indicted her. Kenneth Udoibok, Bock’s attorney in the criminal case, said in a phone interview with MPR News on Wednesday that he plans to raise the allegations about MDE as part of Bock’s defense to federal charges of wire fraud and bribery.

black text on white background court document
Bock's filing includes partial transcripts of a deposition that MDE Assistant Commissioner Daron Korte gave in 2021.
Ramsey County court filing

Udoibok said that he has yet to find anything in the voluminous amount of evidentiary materials that the government has provided that indicates that his client was involved in criminal activity. 

“Where did the federal government get the information that Aimee committed fraud? To date, there has been no smoking gun against Aimee,” Udoibok said.

In the indictment, prosecutors allege that Bock knew exactly what she was doing. They say she not only submitted fraudulent reimbursement claims to MDE, but also sent the proceeds to her co-conspirators.

The government said the 2020 lawsuit by Bock and Feeding Our Future “sought to divert attention away from their fraudulent scheme by blaming MDE when it attempted to perform legitimate and necessary oversight.” 

MDE said in a statement that Bock’s recent filing is “simply the latest example of her abusing the court system to deflect attention from her own misconduct,” and adds that the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office is moving to dismiss her claims ahead of an April 3 hearing in Ramsey County District Court.