Donors to Mayor Frey Caught in Fraud Investigation

Olivia Allery, news editor 

Photo of Mayor Jacob Frey at a press conference in Apr. 2021, taken by Tony Webster and obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, the Feed the Future headquarters was raided by the FBI as a part of the ongoing investigation into the non-profit organization for committing millions of dollars in fraud and money laundering. Feed the Future is a non-profit organization intended to provide meals to children in need through daycares, restaurants, and afterschool programs all across Minnesota.

Three of Feed the Future’s employees, including its Executive Director, have been identified in the fraud and money laundering allegations, along with some twenty other individuals identified in a federal search warrant. 

An FBI investigation was launched by The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) eight months ago after Feed the Future started reporting very high numbers for reimbursed federal funding. MDE is how Feed the Future applies and gets federal funds. The non-profit funding had reportedly swelled significantly in the three year period of 2018-2021 from $300,000 in 2018 to $244 million in 2021. 

The non-profit is connected to multiple entities, most of which only exist on paper and were added within the last three years, as a means of defrauding the federal government as a way of obtaining more federal money meant for serving people in need. One of the largest entities is the Safari Restaurant and Event Center, the South Minneapolis restaurant and caterer. Instead of spending the money on feeding programs, the funds were used for luxury purchases such as a $2.8 million mansion, $200,000 car dealership purchases, $500,000 housing purchases, and traveling expenses.

The restaurant was claiming to be feeding over 5,000 children a day, which raised suspicion for the MDE, leading them to terminate the restaurant as a site for Feed the Future. This pushed Feed the Future to sue the department on grounds of not processing applications for the program fast enough. While this lawsuit played out, funds still continued flowing into Safari Restaurant. As much as $15 million is suspected to have gone to the restaurant.

“The FBI says hardly any of the millions of dollars that Feeding Our Future administered actually went to children,” reported the Sahan Journal in a Jan. 20, 2022 article.

This investigation has also roped in Mayor Jacob Frey, as well as another member of the Minnesota Senate, Omar Fateh. Six men listed in the search warrants made large contributions to Frey’s summer 2021 campaign along with seven others donating to Fateh’s campaign. All the individuals donated $1,000 dollars to the campaigns, the maximum you can give to political campaigns. Both Frey and Fateh are returning around $17,000 worth – all the funds that were donated by individuals listed on the search warrant.

The MDE has terminated its contract with Feed the Future. However, as the investigation continues, other established non-profits not listed on the search warrant who were funded by Feed the Future are worried that communities they serve will not get the resources they need because of the termination. Mekfira Hussein, who runs the Shamasia Hopes non-profit, expressed her concern to the Sahan Journal about not having enough funds to operate. “This would absolutely impact the families relying on this food. Children are going to bed hungry. It breaks my heart.”