Jurors convict 5 in $40M fraud scheme despite cash bag offer

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TL/DR –

A group of seven Minnesota residents was accused of stealing over $40 million from a program intended to feed children during the Covid-19 pandemic. Five of the accused were convicted, while two were acquitted. The case drew attention when an attempt to bribe a juror with $120,000 was discovered; the FBI is still investigating the bribe attempt.


Minnesota Fraud Trial Ends with Five Convictions and Two Acquittals

Five Minnesota residents have been convicted in a case involving the theft of over $40 million from a program designed to provide meals to children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two others were acquitted. The case gained national attention after a failed attempt to bribe a juror with a bag containing $120,000.

The bribed juror was dismissed before deliberations began. A second juror, informed of the bribe, was also dismissed. An FBI investigation remains ongoing into the attempted bribe. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Thompson labeled the bribe attempt as “an attack on our criminal justice system”, pledging to fully investigate the issue.

Thompson described the defendants as having “lied and fraudulently claimed to be feeding millions of meals to children during COVID.” The fraudulent activities took advantage of the pandemic and culminated in the theft of tens of millions of dollars.

The many defendants in this case are said to be the first of 70 to stand trial in one of the nation’s largest COVID-19-related frauds. Overall, the Minnesota scheme is believed to have swindled over $250 million in federal funds with only about $20% of it recovered so far.

The defendants allegedly created invoices for non-existent meals, laundered money, operated shell companies, and engaged in passport fraud amidst other crimes. It is said that only a fraction of the stolen funds was used to feed low-income children, while the rest was spent on luxury items.

The defendants, Abdiaziz Shafii Farah, Mohamed Jama Ismail, Abdimajid Mohamed Nur, Mukhtar Mohamed Shariff, and Hayat Mohamed Nur were found guilty on most of the counts. Said Shafii Farah and Abdiwahab Maalim Aftin were acquitted on all counts.

A photo is shown of the bag of money that was left at a juror’s home, attempting to sway the outcome of the case. After the juror reported the bribe attempt, the judge ordered all seven defendants to surrender their cellphones for investigation.

The FBI’s affidavit suggests that someone with access to the juror’s personal information was likely involved in the attempted bribery. Federal charges of bribery and influencing a juror carry potential penalties of up to 15 years in prison.

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