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A Burnsville grocery store owner pleaded guilty Wednesday to a fraud charge in the sprawling Feeding Our Future case.

Hoda Ali Abdi, 53, of Burnsville was charged in February with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She's the 18th defendant to plead guilty in the massive case, admitting in federal court on Wednesday that she submitted fake invoices, collecting more than $1 million in federal reimbursements for claiming to provide food as a vendor and serve meals at her distribution site to children in need — when little to no food or meals were actually provided.

She told U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel she was nervous on Wednesday, but made no comment about her involvement in the case. She declined to answer questions after the hearing, which was her first court appearance since charges were filed.

Her attorney, Thomas Kelly, said she has cooperated with the government throughout the process.

"This is obviously a horrible, tragic mistake," Kelly said. "She's very contrite and remorseful about the situation."

Abdi, who has no prior criminal history, could face 24 to 30 months in prison. She also could owe nearly $1.3 million in restitution — the amount she received in the scheme from 2021 to 2023.

Abdi, who owned Alif Halal LLC in Burnsville, applied to be a vendor providing food to distribution sites run by co-conspirators. She also applied to run her own food distribution site. She was sponsored by Feeding Our Future and St. Paul nonprofit Partners in Nutrition, also called Partners in Quality Care, which were both tasked with overseeing meal sites.

Alif Halal LLC claimed to be a vendor to other co-conspirators' food distribution sites, which submitted the fake invoices from Abdi to collect $3 million in reimbursements. Abdi was charged by criminal information, a charging document typically used when a defendant has agreed to plead guilty instead of the case going to a grand jury.

In March 2023, more than a year after the FBI raided Feeding Our Future's offices and publicly revealed the massive fraud investigation, agents spoke with Abdi. Afterwards, some of her co-conspirators asked her to lie to investigators, prosecutors said and Abdi confirmed Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded meal programs at the center of the case reimburse nonprofits and schools for providing food to low-income children after school or during the summer.

The now-defunct St. Anthony nonprofit, Feeding Our Future, grew to become one of the largest sponsors of the programs in Minnesota. It oversaw hundreds of distribution sites during the pandemic, when federal waivers loosened in-person monitoring and oversight, making the program more vulnerable to fraud, investigators have said. Its executive director, Aimee Bock, has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to charges.

Since September 2022, 70 people have been charged in the case, which prosecutors say involved a system of kickbacks and bribes among associates, who used the money to buy luxury cars and homes instead of feeding children. The first trial is scheduled to start April 22.