The curious case of the foodless food charity
It turns out that giving away free food to poor hungry children was an extremely lucrative enterprise in 2021. I’ve mentioned before how hundreds of nonprofits sprung up overnight (or…
Keith Ellison, the state’s attorney general, has filed lawsuits against 23 nonprofit corporations based in five greater Metro counties. His is seeking to have the nonprofits dissolved as corporate entities.
16 of the 23 are located in Hennepin County and Ellison will petition to have these civil cases consolidated there.
As discussed below, it’s not clear what, if anything, Ellison will accomplish with these lawsuits. He did, however, get a prominent headline in the Minneapolis Star Tribune,
Minnesota seeks to shut down nonprofits accused of defrauding federal meals program
Some of the organizations are tied to Feeding Our Future, the nonprofit at the center of a separate federal criminal investigation.
There are literally hundreds of other nonprofits that fall into this same category: fake charities created in 2020 or 2021 for the purpose of defrauding the Federal free-food programs.
So why did the attorney general pick these particular 23? Let’s dig in.
But first we note that the attorney general has done this before. In January 2023, Ellison sued the Edina-based nonprofit ThinkTechAct, associated with Defendant Nos. 15 and 17 in the Feeding Our Future criminal cases being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney in Federal court. In that instance, Ellison was unopposed and the corporation was dissolved in May. His only other accomplishment in the case was squeezing a $1,000 payment out of a peripheral, unindicted participant.
From Ellison’s press release, here is the list of the newest 23 targets:
Fourteen of these nonprofits are associated with figures from the Feeding Our Future scandal that have already pleaded guilty, have been convicted in the case, and have agree to restitution with the Feds.
Only eight of the nonprofits are currently shown as “active” on the MN Secretary of State’s database of businesses. These companies are shown in bold on the table below,
Seventeen of the nonprofits were founded after the beginning of the pandemic and after the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture relaxed the rules for participating in the free-food programs.
Four of the nonprofits listed have no direct connection to any of the 60 individuals indicted in the Federal case.
Most prominent of these is the entity called Urban Advantage Services. Urban was founded in 2020 by Ilo Amba, the wife of current Minneapolis city council member Jamal Osman. Amba has never been charged with any crime in connection to the scandal. Urban took more than $460,000 out of the free-food programs, according to reporting by the Star Tribune.
Urban Advantage worked under the sponsorship of a different free-food nonprofit, Partners in Nutrition, d/b/a Partners in Quality Care and had no business dealings with Feeding Our Future.
Osman and Amba originally founded Stigma-Free International, also on Ellison’s list of 23 above, but they transferred ownership of this nonprofit before any fraudulent activity began. Ellison is backing Osman’s bid for re-election next month. Osman has not been charged in the case.
The Star Tribune reported yesterday,
Reached Wednesday night, Osman, who is running for another term in next month’s election, said he wasn’t free to immediately comment on the state allegations. Last month, Ellison endorsed Osman, his fellow DFLer, for re-election.
Today, the Star Tribune dug a little deeper into the story,
The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office has accused the wife of Minneapolis City Council Member Jamal Osman of creating a “sham” charity created to enrich herself and family members by diverting taxpayer funds meant to help feed children during the coronavirus pandemic.
The paper adds, “Approached multiple times Thursday, Osman has declined to comment.”
The Free Minded Institute was founded in 2021 by Julius Scarver, a former board member of Partners in Nutrition. Scarver and his nonprofit have been mentioned in Federal indictments, but he has never been charged with any crime. The Institute is reported to have taken $2.5 million out of the free-food program.
United Enrichment WIth Heart was founded in February 2021 in Bloomington. The Attorney General alleges that United Enrichment took at least $200,000 out of the free-food program, through Feeding Our Future, and had a further invoice denied by the state Department of Education due to “likelihood of fraud” (p. 5). No one involved with this nonprofit has been charged in the case. Enrichment, with heart
Likewise, no one associated with Unity Social Service of Mounds View has ever been charged in the case. The attorney general’s office alleges that it received a complaint regarding Unity and its participation in the free-food program through Feeding Our Future.
Here are the food distribution sites registered to these last two nonprofits. Both operated under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future, in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP),
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