A Faribault, Minn., couple have admitted to federal fraud charges for submitting fake paperwork claiming to feed thousands of children per day to misappropriate more than $5 million in government money as part of the wide-ranging Feeding Our Future scheme.
Mohamed Ali Hussein, 53, and Lul Bashir Ali, 57, pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their roles in the $250 million scheme to exploit federal nutrition funds intended to feed underprivileged children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Charges allege that in 2020, Ali and Hussein enrolled their companies, Lido Restaurant and Somali American Faribault Education (SAFE), in the Federal Child Nutrition Program under Feeding Our Future sponsorship. After enrolling, they submitted inflated invoices and fake paperwork for reimbursement in which they claimed to be serving meals to thousands of children a day.
According to their guilty pleas and court documents, Lido Restaurant had a contract to prepare meals to be served by Hussein's SAFE site. The couple submitted fraudulent claims that sought reimbursement for far more meals than Ali's company actually prepared. Charges say that Hussein also paid more than $100,000 in kickbacks to Feeding Our Future personnel in exchange for the nonprofit's sponsorship of Lido Restaurant and SAFE.
Hussein's company claimed to have served more than 1.2 million meals to children in 10 months in 2021 to a total of $2.1 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds. Ali's company claimed to have served more than 700,000 meals to children in 11 months between 2020 and 2021 for $2.9 million in federal money.
The couple agreed to pay more than $5 million in restitution. Sentencing has not been scheduled.
Sixty defendants have been federally charged in the wide-ranging scheme, which prosecutors say is the largest pandemic-related fraud in the country and one of the largest federal fraud cases ever brought in Minnesota, with charges ranging from wire fraud to federal programs bribery and money laundering. Several have entered guilty pleas.