Nutrition website

Fraudsters used fake name generator website to steal $250 million earmarked for starving children, Justice Department says

Children eat breakfast at the federally funded Head Start school on September 20, 2012 in Woodbourne, New York.John Moore/Getty Images

  • The DOJ has charged 47 people with participating in a scheme to defraud the government.

  • Prosecutors alleged the fraudsters used a fake name generator site to steal $250 million intended for children.

  • The proceeds were used to buy property in Kenya and Turkey, the US claims.

Using a website that generated fake names and exploiting relaxed surveillance early in the pandemic, fraudsters in Minnesota stole an estimated $250 million from a federal program to feed starving children and used the proceeds to buy property in Kenya and Turkey, the US Department of Justice alleged on Tuesday.

“It was a brazen scheme of staggering proportions,” U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger said in A declaration announcing the indictments of 47 people for conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and corruption. If proven, the scheme would amount to the biggest fraud uncovered since the advent of COVID-19.

Prosecutors say the defendant exploited the federal child nutrition program, which provides free or low-cost meals to poor children. Typically distributed in schools, during the pandemic the federal government allowed off-site meal service, including restaurants.

With the help of employees of a Minnesota nonprofit, Feeding Our Future, according to the Justice Department, the accused conspirators submitted fake invoices and lists – listing fake names, generated by the website “www.listofrandomnames.com”, for children who did not exist. – and pocketed money for meals that were never served. Feeding Our Future, in turn, collected $18 million in administrative fees for disbursing that money, according to the indictment.

Launched by founder Aimee Bock in 2016, according to her LinkedIn, Feeding Our Future has grown rapidly during the pandemic. In 2019, he handed out $3.4 million in federal aid, prosecutors say, to reach nearly $200 million in 2021.

Along with benefiting from administrative fees, prosecutors accused Bock and employees of his organization of operating a ‘pay-to-play system’, according to an indictment obtained by the New York Times“in which individuals seeking to operate fraudulent sites under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future were required to repay a portion of their fraudulent earnings.”

Those involved in the scheme, prosecutors say, spent the proceeds on travel, luxury vehicles and property in Minnesota, Ohio and Kentucky, as well as real estate in Turkey and Kenya.

A search warrant, executed in January, accused Bock of accepting a payment of $310,000 from a client, Sahan Journal reported. Bock, in turn, accused a former friend and business partner, without proof, of hacking into his bank account and reporting the payment to law enforcement.

Federal authorities, meanwhile, allege that Bock and his organization falsely claimed to monitor the bogus distribution sites at the heart of the scheme.

“Today’s indictments describe a blatant conspiracy to steal public funds intended to care for children in need in what amounts to the biggest pandemic fraud scheme to date,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement on Tuesday.

Bock has proclaimed his innocence, telling The Times earlier this year following federal raids that it was “possible” that fraud had taken place but that tight controls were in place. “And if they have one on us,” she said at the time, “I will hold them accountable.

A lawyer for Bock did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A call to the number listed on the Feeding Our Future website — which Bock said would “disband” following federal raids earlier this year — was picked up by someone who identified himself as “James.” Asked to comment on the federal indictment, they instead offered an insider reporter a “$100 discount” and asked for their home address before hanging up the phone.

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Read the original article at Business Intern