Feeding Our Future verdict: 5 guilty on most charges; 2 found not guilty

A jury reached a verdict in the Feeding Our Future trial of seven Minnesotans accused of a scheme to steal more than $40 million from the Federal Child Nutrition Program. 

After several days of deliberations, the jury found:

  • Abdiaziz Shafii Farah, 35, of Savage, guilty of 23 of 24 counts. Farah was found not guilty of one count of wire fraud.
  • Mohamed Jama Ismail, 51, of Savage, guilty of three of the four counts against him. The not-guilty verdict came on the same wire fraud count as Farah.
  • Abdimajid Mohamed Nur, 23, of Shakopee, guilty of 10 of the 13 counts. Nur was found not guilty on three counts of money laundering.
  • Said Shafii Farah not guilty of all nine counts against him.
  • Abdiwahab Maalim Aftin not guilty of all three counts.
  • Mukhtar Mohamed Shariff, 33, of Bloomington, guilty on three of six counts.
  • Hayat Mohamed Nur, 27, of Eden Prairie, guilty on three of five counts.

The group faced charges that included wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering, with some facing additional charges in the 43-count indictment, for their roles in the $250 million Feeding Our Future fraud scheme. 

READ MORE: Full list of each charge and verdict

The five people who were convicted carried out a $40 million fraud scheme to defraud the Federal Child Nutrition Program in which they obtained, misappropriated and laundered millions of dollars in funds that were intended as reimbursements for the cost of serving meals to children, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Thompson, at a press conference after the verdict, said he is pleased with the verdict. 

"They lied and they fraudulently claimed to be feeding millions of meals to children in Minnesota during COVID. The defendants took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to defraud the state of Minnesota and to steal tens of millions of dollars," Thompson said. "This conduct was not just criminal, it was depraved and brazen."

Sentencing hearings have not yet been scheduled. 

"Exploiting a program designed to feed underserved children during the COVID pandemic is reprehensible," Special Agent in Charge Alvin M. Winston of FBI Minneapolis said in a statement on Friday. "Today's verdict is a clear warning to those who exploit the most vulnerable for personal gain. Justice will be swift and severe. The FBI, alongside our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney's Office, stand united in condemning such acts and ensuring that those who prey on others face the consequences they deserve."

The seven defendants were the first of 70 to stand trial in what federal prosecutors have called one of the nation’s largest COVID-19-related fraud cases. To date, 18 people have pleaded guilty.

Attempted juror bribe

The trial was not without controversy. It took an unusual turn during deliberations when two jurors had to be dismissed. A 23-year-old juror was dismissed after reporting that a woman allegedly dropped off a bag of $120,000 in cash at her Spring Lake Park home in an attempted bribe for a not-guilty verdict. A second juror was released the following day after learning about the alleged bribe attempt from a family member. 

The remaining jurors were immediately sequestered to prevent further attempts or any prejudicial influence. The bag of cash was taken into evidence, and a federal investigation is underway for attempted bribery and jury tampering. The seven defendants were taken into custody and booked since only they and their lawyers would know the jurors' identities.

One of the seven defendants' houses, Abdiaziz Farah, was searched by the FBI days after the attempted bribe. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.