Minnesota crooks aren’t particularly sophisticated

There’s a huge trial going on in this state, regarding $250 million in funds unlawfully diverted from charity for needy children to the pockets of a small number of greedy grifters. It happens even in the land of Minnesota Nice.

The seven defendants — Said Shafii Farah, Abdiaziz Shafii Farah, Mohamed Jama Ismail, Abdimajid Mohamed Nur, Abdiwahab Maalim Aftin, Mukhtar Mohamed Shariff and Hayat Mohamed Nur — were charged in 2022 with wire fraud, money laundering and other charges. They have connections to a Shakopee restaurant, Empire Cuisine & Market.

The seven defendants are among 70 people charged in the broader case, all tied to U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that reimburse schools, day-care facilities and nonprofits for feeding low-income children after school and during the summer.

The seven received more than $40 million in federal reimbursements for 18 million meals distributed at 50 food sites across Minnesota — from Rochester to St. Cloud. Prosecutors allege the defendants ran a “brazen” fraud scheme that created numerous shell companies to launder money, submitted rosters of made-up children’s names and inflated meal claims.

Prosecutors also say some defendants received and gave kickbacks to other people charged in the massive scheme, leading to bribery charges. They said the six men and one woman spent the money lavishly on themselves, including the purchases of a $1 million lakefront Prior Lake property, luxury cars and gold jewelry.

That’s already blatant enough, and thoroughly contemptible. They took advantage of a federal program to feed kids to instead outright steal millions. It’s not just a little skimming, either, but outright pocketing all the money.

But that’s not why I say our crooks are unsophisticated. It’s also their plan to escape justice.

A juror in the Feeding Our Future federal trial was dismissed suddenly Monday morning after a woman showed up at her door Sunday with a bag of $120,000 in cash and offers of a second bag of cash if she votes to acquit the defendants, attorneys said in court.

The 23-year-old juror wasn’t home when the woman showed up, but the unnamed person left the juror’s father-in-law a bag of cash and told him to tell the juror that another bag of cash would be dropped off if she votes to acquit the seven defendants in the fraud case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Thompson said.

Yeah, big ol’ bag o’ cash. Nothing subtle about it. There are some real boneheads behind that scheme.

I wonder if the Coen Brothers are itching to make a movie of it? Nah, probably not — too real.


  1. christoph says

    I’m sure some right wing talk show hosts are already planning to emphasize the Arabic sounding names of the defendants. If it’s a minority defendant, they always point out the ethnicity rather than emphasize the crime.

  2. keinsignal says

    To be fair, I viewed the charges with some suspicion at first, just knowing the FBI probably got an instant hard-on just seeing the names of the suspects. And I do feel bad for some apparently well-meaning people who got dragged into the grift through no fault of their own. But yeah, the numbers don’t lie, and the attempted payoff seals the deal on this one.

  3. Roy says

    “Thank you for the money, and for removing any doubt about how I should vote.”

  4. stwriley says

    christoph @1

    Well, this may make the rightwingers happy, but fraud in the same program elsewhere might make them considerably less so. Right here in North Carolina, the current Republican nominee for governor (who is a complete nut-job and rabid MAGA rightwinger himself) has been forced to shut down the family “non-profit” because it looks like they played very fast and loose with funds from the nutrition program. The Robinsons are black, but they’re the kind of far right grifters that Republicans love no matter their ethnicity, so naturally they and their backers are claiming that the investigation is all a political witch hunt rather than being related to the obvious irregularities in how their non-profit operated and the exceptionally inflated salaries they (and their children) drew from it. It’s true that they were a bit more sophisticated in their criminal activity than these Minnesota examples, but not by all that much.

  5. outis says

    BUT, was the bag o’ money a burlap sack with a dollar sign on it? Such details are of the utmost importance!

  6. christoph says

    @outis, # 6: Key & Peele always crack me up. Have you seen their “Racist Zombie” sketch?

  7. birgerjohansson says

    I am thinking the rules against corruption in congress are so lax that you literally need to hand over burlap sacks of cash with $ signs to formally violate the rules. Jon Stewart had a fun (and depressing) segment about

  8. birgerjohansson says

    Key and Peele remind me of another duo.
    You may recall Mitchell & Webb in -for instance- “Are we the baddies?”

    Mitchell has since gone on to this radio program (no video, but the podcast is great) : “The Unbelievable Truth – Season 23” | Full Season | BBC Radio Comedy

  9. cheerfulcharlie says

    No, no, no. THIS is how you do it!
    Nine witnesses in the criminal cases against former President Donald Trump have received significant financial benefits, including large raises from his campaign, severance packages, new jobs, and a grant of shares and cash from Trump’s media company.

    The benefits have flowed from Trump’s businesses and campaign committees, according to a ProPublica analysis of public disclosures, court records and securities filings. One campaign aide had his average monthly pay double, from $26,000 to $53,500. Another employee got a $2 million severance package barring him from voluntarily cooperating with law enforcement. And one of the campaign’s top officials had her daughter hired onto the campaign staff, where she is now the fourth-highest-paid employee.


  10. gijoel says

    The seven received more than $40 million in federal reimbursements for 18 million meals distributed at 50 food sites across Minnesota — from Rochester to St. Cloud

    That feels like child abuse. You’re taking food out of children’s mouths. Throw them in jail and toss away the key.

  11. Nemo says

    Wait, why was the juror dismissed? For honestly reporting it? That’s the wrong message…

  12. Artor says

    Their mistake was in going too small. It has been abundantly demonstrated that if your crime is big enough, you can skate for decades and never face consequences until you are old and senile and incapable of understanding what is happening.

  13. StevoR says

    @12. Nemo : yes, that doesn’t make sense to me either. What did that juror do wrong given they weren’t even there and reported it straight away?

    It does make me wonder how many other jurors might’ve been approached and not said so or worse.

  14. Larry says

    @12 @14

    On the surface, dismissing the juror does seem unfair, but, through no fault of their own, they have been tainted. One of the instructions you receive as a juror is to not read or watch stories about the trial in the media as it could jeopardize the impartiality you swore you would maintain during the trial. Receiving a big, old bag of money would have the same affect. Had they been retained on the jury, should the defendants be convicted, it would form a very serious rationale for granting a mistrial.

  15. Kagehi says

    @10 Wait.. Trump’s defense actually had witnesses? Oh, and he, or his organization, actually paid them, never mind after having failed to successfully help him escape justice? Seems.. implausible.

  16. cheerfulcharlie says

    All these Trump witnesses had to say is “I don’t recall, I don’t remember any of that” or “I plead the fifth , the fifth, the fifth.” And then they get a cushy job and a big paycheck. You don’t see anybody in Washington calling for a DOJ investigation, do you? Hunter’s lap top! Hunter’s illegal gun!


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