Friday, December 2

Two Columbus-area men charged in alleged plot to steal COVID funds

Two Columbus-area men are among 47 defendants charged in Minnesota in what federal prosecutors say was a “brazen scheme” to steal $250 million in federal COVID relief funds by billing the federal government for fake free meals for needy children who didn’t exist.

Attorney General Merrick Garland called what happened with the nonprofit Feeding Our Future program “the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme charged to date.” Instead of providing free meals to underserved children at non-education sites operated by nonprofits or for-profit restaurants in Minneapolis-St. Paul and beyond, federal authorities allege the defendants took advantage of relaxed federal requirements intended to help children during the pandemic by falsifying paperwork to obtain federal funds illegally.

Prosecutors allege the defendants used the federal money for their own benefit — including for the purchase of luxury vehicles, international travel, residential and commercial real estate in Minnesota, Ohio and Kentucky; beach property in Kenya, and property on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey.

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