Federal prosecutors have charged 47 Somali Muslim immigrants in Minnesota for skimming $250 million from a coronavirus relief program meant to help feed needy children.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s office calls the case the “largest pandemic relief fraud scheme charged to date.”

“Today’s indictments describe an egregious plot to steal public funds meant to care for children in need in what amounts to the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme yet,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray in a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release:

The defendants went to great lengths to exploit a program designed to feed underserved children in Minnesota amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, fraudulently diverting millions of dollars designated for the program for their own personal gain. These charges send the message that the FBI and our law enforcement partners remain vigilant and will vigorously pursue those who attempt to enrich themselves through fraudulent means.

The scheme involved the 47 defendants, who prosecutors say created an umbrella group called “Feeding Our Future” and then created numerous sub-groups that were advertised as bringing food to needy children during the pandemic. The accused allegedly used the fraudulent groups to file for relief funding at mosques across Minnesota. Once they obtained the funding, they reported feeding thousands of children every day and supplied rosters of non-existent children to the government to show their outreach.

Somali Immigrants Charged in Largest COVID Relief Fraud Scheme
The FBI conducted a raid on the nonprofit Feeding Our Future in St. Anthony, Minnesota, on January 20, 2022.

One such fraudulent feeding center was so brazen that it just copied all the names from a website called listofrandomnames.com and sent that list to federal authorities to claim that it fed the people on the list, prosecutors said.

At trial in May, the director and imam for the Dar Al-Farooq mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota, attempted to claim that Feeding Our Future fed thousands of children every day, but witnesses said they only ever saw food being distributed on Saturdays and not any other day of the week, Minnesota Reformer reported.

Defense attorneys also brought in Paul Martin Vaaler, a left-wing professor from the University of Minnesota, to regale jurors on how the Somali immigrant community is “just like” the communities of Norwegian immigrants who flooded the area in the late 1800s and early 1900s because the Somalis remain insular, hiring only each other for businesses, and then send large amounts of U.S. dollars back to their home country instead of spending and investing it here in the U.S.

“I’m a fourth-generation Norwegian, and my ancestors would’ve been in that same Cedar-Riverside community 100 years ago,” the left-wing professor exclaimed on the stand.

In another “expert” witness testimony, Vaaler claimed that because Islam disallows the use of credit cards and bank loans, it is not atypical to see Somali Muslims in Minnesota dealing strictly in cash. But he also admitted that one instance, in which more than one million U.S. dollars were wired to a Somali company to build an apartment building in Somalia