Feeding Our Future dissolves amid FBI investigation over federal nutrition money

25 February 2022

Feeding Our Future, the St. Anthony nonprofit the FBI is investigating for alleged federal nutrition fraud, is closing its doors for good.

The nonprofit’s three board members voted to dissolve the organization, they announced Friday.

“Feeding Our Future did a lot of great work for the community,” Aimee Bock, the organization’s executive director, said in a prepared statement. “It’s heartbreaking that the organization must dissolve under these unfortunate circumstances.”

The FBI froze Feeding Our Future’s assets in January so the organization hasn’t been able to operate since then and its 65 employees were terminated, said Jennifer Urban, an attorney who works with nonprofits and was hired to help the organization manage the dissolution. She added that the organization is hoping the FBI will unfreeze its assets so it can wind down operations, paying outstanding bills.

The three board members — named as Ali Egal, Henry Komolo and Amal Sala — voted unanimously to dissolve the organization on Wednesday and submitted the official paperwork with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office. According to January paperwork filed with the state, the board members then were Egal, Jamie Phelps, 45, of St. Paul and John Senkler but Phelps and Senkler have since resigned, Urban said.

While the FBI is investigating for possible criminal charges, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, which regulates charities that solicit for donations in Minnesota, is investigating the nonprofit for possibly violating the state’s charitable laws. The agency can take action against nonprofits by filing court orders to dissolve or ban it from operating in Minnesota if it misuses funds or doesn’t follow governance rules. Urban said Feeding Our Future is cooperating with both investigations.

The board members said in the resolution that “widespread negative press coverage” and the organization’s assets being frozen amid the investigation prompted the board to decide to voluntarily dissolve the organization and wind down operations. The nonprofit is hiring an accounting firm to complete required audits and tax forms.

On Jan. 20, more than 200 law enforcement officers raided more than a dozen sites in Minnesota including the nonprofit’s offices and Bock’s Rosemount home. In more than 200 pages of U.S. District Court search warrants that were unsealed later that day, an FBI special agent detailed an elaborate scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Agriculture of millions of dollars by taking money meant to feed children in need. Instead, they allege that the money was funneled to an array of entities to be laundered and used to buy jewelry, a Porsche, lakefront homes in Prior Lake, a $1 million Plymouth home with an indoor basketball court and other personal property, trips and items.

In a court order filed Jan. 21, prosecutors moved to seize 14 properties owned by people accused in the scheme.

No one who has been named in FBI court documents has been arrested or charged with any crime.

Bock, who started the organization in 2016, told the Star Tribune in her first media interview since the FBI raid that she had never stolen money nor had she seen any evidence of fraud among her subcontractors.

Bock accuses the Minnesota Department of Education, which distributes the federal nutrition funds to nonprofits and schools, of supplying the federal government with a bogus criminal case to derail her lawsuit against the state, which was scheduled to go to trial in April. She also alleges discrimination, saying the department held up approvals and payments because she works with organizations led mostly by Somali immigrants.

She said Feeding Our Future visited subcontractor sites at least monthly to verify they were following federal guidelines and only reimbursed subcontractors after they provided meals. She said the for-profit businesses could use their earnings for personal use.

This post was originally published on this site

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