US prosecutors have charged 47 people in connection with the largest-ever COVID-19 relief fraud scheme ever, the suspects were accused of stealing $250 million from a government aid program that helped children in need during the health crisis. was for food.
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According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the suspects are accused of issuing food bills for children who were not present.
The defendants are said to have bribed employees of Feeding Our Future, a Minnesota non-profit organization, to sponsor several fake distribution sites.
The DOJ said these sites claimed to serve meals to thousands of children a day within days or weeks of being built. But they were instead doing false paperwork using fake children’s names.
The department said the accused used the money to buy luxury cars as well as properties in the US, Kenya and Turkey and to fund international travel.
The BBC reported that the suspects face several charges, including wire fraud, money laundering and bribery. However, Feeding Our Future has denied any wrongdoing.
“We have maintained our innocence from day one. The indictment is just the beginning of the criminal process,” a lawyer for the organisation’s founder, Amy Bock, told the BBC.
In March, the DOJ was reported to have brought more than 1,000 criminal cases and reported that $1.1 billion in damages had been caused and several citizens were prosecuted for loan fraud worth more than $6 billion.