Feeding Our Future: the Rochester Connection

The sixth indictment in the Feeding Our Future case involves the family-run Brava Restaurant and Café in Rochester.

The indictment names six members of the the Jama family and involves $5.6 million taken from a free food program. The defendants are said to have netted $4.3 million. The scheme alleged in the indictment reads as the simplest of the cases brough to date.

The case is headlined by Sharmake Jama and involves only a single free-food distribution site, this restaurant located in a retail strip mall.

Brava Restaurant was registered as a food distribution site in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future with a capacity to feed up to 4,000 children per day. The restaurant was registered to serve as its own food supplier.

Along with Brava, local schools, and other providers, Rochester had more free-food capacity registered than there are children in the city.

Brava Restaurant participated in the program from September 2020 until December 2021.

The restaurant was first incorporated in 2016, according to records on file at the MN Secretary of State’s office.

According to the FBI, the scheme involved a series of six shell companies (Mumu, East Africa, Shalaq, Eyo, African Heritage, and Nakumad), created to launder money (page 5, paragraphs 15-23). According to the MN Secretary of State’s office, each LLC was incorporated by a different defendant, and all six were incorporated on the same date: January 7, 2021.

The FBI alleges that only a small fraction of the meals claimed were actually served. The restaurant’s initial capacity was set at 3,000 children per day. The FBI alleges that Brava submitted daily reimbursement claims for between 2,985 and 2,999 every day (p. 9, para. 32).

Alleged proceeds were used to purchase real estate in Minnesota, Ohio and the Republic of Turkey. Vehicles purchased include a GMC Sierra 3500 Denali and a Toyota Rav4.

In addition to the two cars, the Feds seized four properties in Minnesota and one in Ohio.

In the wake of the indictment, the Rochester Post Bulletin published an editorial that began,

We’re not sure what’s more appalling: The audacity of the “Feeding Our Future” scheme or the lack of oversight that allowed dozens of now-indicted defendants in Minnesota to allegedly steal $250 million in COVID-relief funds.

The editors conclude,

For now, the Walz administration must own this mess. Errors must be admitted, processes scrutinized, and wheels must be set in motion to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.

Both Sharmake and Asha Jama appear on a list of donors to a Washington state political candidate, along with other Feeding Our Future figures. Asha’s spouse also donated to the Washington state candidate, along with making donations to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and city council member Jeremiah Ellison.

Rochester’s Brava Restaurant and Café should not to be confused with the Minneapolis-based Brava Café, which is the subject of indictment No. 9.