Feeding Our Future web reaches ISAIAH and Bloomington mosque

Bloomington’s Dar Al Farooq has come up numerous times in the current trial underway in Federal court in Minneapolis.

Seven defendants associated with the non-closed Shakopee restaurant Empire Cuisine are currently on trial related to the free-food scandal.

The Bloomington mosque facility hosted free-food distribution sites under four different nonprofit networks during the pandemic, including one of the largest single distribution sites in the state.

To be clear: no person associated with the mosque or related nonprofit entities has been charged in the case or accused of any wrongdoing. As the free-food scandal has unfolded, it’s never been established what the facility’s leadership knew (if anything) about the multiple food distribution efforts taking place on their property.

Nonetheless, this month several witnesses in the ongoing trial have discussed activities that took place in 2021 at 8201 Park Avenue South, the facility’s Bloomington address.

The first to mention Dar Al Farooq from the stand was Hadith Ahmed, a prosecution witness and former Feeding Our Future insider. The Minnesota Reformer reported on Ahmed’s testimony regarding the mosque,

A large site at the Dar Al-Farooq mosque in Bloomington transferred over too, he said. He said mosques made good distribution sites because they were high-traffic areas, were already nonprofits and people could just “submit the address and start claiming … whatever number you want to claim.”

The Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center (“DFC“) is indeed a registered nonprofit, incorporated with the MN Secretary of State’s office in 2016. DFC operates under the nonprofit Al Jazari Institute, which was incorporated back in 2012.

DFC’s homepage lists one other notable affiliation,

As a member of the Muslim Coalition of ISAIAH, we advocate for policies that promote justice and equity for Muslims. Join us in our mission to create a brighter future for Muslims In Minnesota.

ISAIAH is a nonprofit corporation that is critical to the get-out-the vote efforts of Minnesota’s Democratic (DFL) party every election year. ISAIAH’s Muslim Coalition includes some 20 mosques around the state.

Neither the DFC nor Al Jazari nonprofits were registered as nonprofits hosting free-food sites. The sites registered at 8201 Park Avenue were listed under different non-profit names, as Hadith Ahmed explained from the stand last week. The Sahan Journal reported,

[Ahmed] testified to receiving kickbacks from Empire Cuisine, a food vendor that reported providing food to a food site at Dar Al Farooq, a mosque in Bloomington.

The kickback came from the restaurant, not the mosque itself. Ahmed explains further,

The Dar Al Farooq food site was operated by Mind Foundry, an alleged shell company started by Mahad Ibrahim, a defendant in the case who is not a part of the current trial. The company’s alleged food supplier was Empire Cuisine and Market, a restaurant owned by two defendants in the trial, Abdiaziz Farah and Mohamed Jama Ismail.

Indeed, the nonprofit Mind Foundry, not the mosque itself, was the registered host of a maximum 6,000 children per day feeding operation under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future.

Another witness for the prosecution, Bloomington school official Dinna Wade-Ardley, testified this week about the unlikelihood of a feeding operation that size at that location. Bloomington schools operated their own feeding effort during this period. The Sahan Journal reports,

Federal prosecutors showed Wade-Ardley the meal claims that Mind Foundry-Dar Al Farooq made to the state Department of Education during the same time period she helped serve the meals at Oak Grove Middle School. The food site claimed to serve 2,000 meals a day, seven days a week in January 2021, for a total of 14,000 meals a week. Numbers like these repeated for many months of that year. Wade-Ardley sighed when shown these numbers.

“You have a look on your face,” U.S. Assistant Attorney Joe Thompson said in response to Wade-Ardley’s reaction. “Can you explain that?”

“It’s a lot of meals,” Wade-Ardley responded. 

“Did you and your employees distribute that many meals on Saturdays?” Thompson asked.

“No,” Wade-Ardley said. “We have less than 10,000 students in the Bloomington Public Schools district.” 

Mind Foundry’s claimed operation was just one of four registered on the DFC property. in 2021. The others were registered to Success Academy, a K-8 charter school located on the property. A site was registered at Success Academy under the Partners in Nutrition network, open to the public, with a maximum capacity to feed 3,000 children per day. Success Academy ran its own feeding site through the summer feeding program to provide meals to its own student population.

According to data compiled by U.S. News, the combined enrollment at Success Academy’s Bloomington elementary and middle schools is 172 students. A branch campus in St. Cloud opened in recent years with an additional 136 students.

As a public charter school, Success Academy campuses receive taxpayer funding through the state Dept. of Education (MDE). Here are the funding levels since the school’s founding in 2014,

Over the years, Summit Academy has received more than $23 million from MDE. According to MDE records, the school’s director is Ahmed Hudle. He has not been accused of any wrong doing.

As it pertains to both DFC and Summit Academy, there is one piece of evidence that the jury hasn’t seen. Attorneys for both the prosecution and defense have been arguing in recent days over the admissibility of Exhibit H-51i, as it’s designated on the official list of potential trial exhibits. Exhibit H-51i can be seen here.

The exhibit consists of a string of text messages exchanged between two defendants in the current trial: Abdiaziz Farah (mentioned above) and Abdimajid Nur.

What’s so controversial about the exhibit? Embedded in the text chain are eight screenshots taken in June 2021 from social media conversations airing a variety of grievances about the inner workings of Dar Al Farooq.

For its part, the U.S. Attorney is not vouching for any of the claims made in the anonymous social media posts. Prosecutors want to focus on the reactions of Messrs. Farah and Nur as further evidence of the alleged food fraud scheme.

Indeed, the alleged food-fraud scheme is referenced several times in the anonymous social media posts. But the posts touch on other topics as well as naming many names.

The second screenshot (p. 2 of the exhibit) mentions the name “Afrique,” presumably referring to a business operated by a third defendant in the case, Mukhtar Shariff, discussed here. That same screenshot mentions another name, UADEEG. According to the MN Secretary of State, UADEEG is a brand name registered by the Al Jazari Institute in March 2020.

The Facebook page for UADEEG includes a number of 2021 entries regarding food distribution. This one mentions Shariff’s business address in Bloomington,

Screenshot #4 (p. 4) mentions Shariff by name, but also mentions another individual, Mohamed Omar. According to the tax return filed by the Al Jazari Institute for calendar year 2021, Omar served as the Institute’s executive director at that time.

Omar’s Twitter (X) account bio (nickname “Arab”) lists him the director of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center and co-founder of the Muslim Coalition of Faith in Minnesota and ISAIAH. Faith in Minnesota is ISAIAH’s 501c4 “dark money” and political campaign finance operation.

Omar has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the Feeding Our Future case. His name appears on a list of campaign donors attending a December 20, 2021, political fundraiser for Minneapolis city council member Jeremiah Ellison, alongside eight (8) individuals
(including Shariff) who were later indicted in the case.

Screenshot #5 (p. 4) mentions the nonprofit company “Minnesota Youth Collective aka MYC.” The official exhibit list for the prosecutors in the current Feeding Our Future trial mentions MYC on three occasions. The master exhibit list also mentions Dar Al Farooq 57 times, DFC 11 times, Success Academy 10 times, Mohamed Omar 6 times, and Uadeeg once.

Screenshot #6 (p. 5) mentions Omar along with Success Academy, Al Jazari, DFC, and Dar Al-Farooq. Screenshot #7 (p. 5) mentions an Abdullahi Farah as being “on the payroll of ISAIAH.” Indeed, there is a current staff person at ISAIAH matching that name and serving as lead organizer for the Muslim Coalition. This Farah (not the defendant) is listed on the Al Jazari Institute 2021 tax return as being a board member and serving as corporate secretary. The Institute’s 2022 tax return shows that Abdullahi Farah was joined on the board by a new member, Khalid Omar. Neither Abdullahi Farah nor Khalid Omar has been accused of any wrongdoing in the Feeding Our Future case. Khalid’s name appears on the master exhibit list in the case on two occasions.

Coincidentally, ISAIAH is a member of the Democratic get-out-the-vote machine Minnesota Voice along with another nonprofit whose name has come up in the Feeding Our Future trial, Somali Community Resettlement Services (SCRS).

Khalid’s name came up in court this week, as the Sahan Journal reported, as the author of a controversial email presented to the jury. Mosque board member Khalid was described in court as someone “who worked with the food site.”

This Khalid Omar appears to be the same individual who worked as a community organizer with ISAIAH until late last year. A Khalid Omar, listing his employer as ISAIAH, also attended that same December 2021 Ellison fundraiser with Mohamed Omar and eight future Feeding scandal defendants.

That same day in 2021, a Khalid Omar donated the maximum amount ($2,500) to Ellison’s father, Attorney General Keith Ellison. Coincidentally, another Feeding defendant, Gandi Mohamed, gave the senior Ellison that same dollar amount that same day. Although Gandi is not on trial in the current case, his name does appear on the exhibit list.

Reminder: unless specifically noted otherwise, no person or entity mentioned above has been accused of any wrongdoing related to the Feeding Our Future case.