Feeding Our Future fraud: Jury selection underway in first trial

The first trial in the massive Feeding Our Future fraud case is finally underway after a lengthy investigation.

Jury selection started Monday in federal court in Minneapolis. It's the first of several trials related to the scheme that allegedly stole over $250 million in federal pandemic relief funds.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is prosecuting seven individuals in this initial trial, all accused of misappropriating $40 million intended for child nutrition programs.

The alleged scheme is extensive, involving more than 70 defendants linked to the now-defunct Feeding Our Future program. According to federal prosecutors, the defendants established nearly 200 fraudulent meal sites, claiming to feed up to 6,000 children daily.

The first seven defendants face a range of felony charges including wire fraud and money laundering, mostly connected to Empire Cuisine and Market in Shakopee. This store, which has since changed its name and ownership, was allegedly used by former owners to funnel federal funds into personal expenditures such as luxury cars and lakefront property.

This sprawling investigation has taken over a year and a half to reach this stage since charges were filed. Another 14 defendants are scheduled for trial this summer, while 18 have already pled guilty.