Feeding Our Future’s ‘tentacles’ reach a Burnsville charter school

The ever-alert Lou Raguse of KARE-11 TV noticed a late Friday press release from the office of the state Attorney General (AG) and promptly put out a Twitter (X) thread,

The K-8 charter school in question, Gateway STEM Academy, was founded in 2018 by Abdiaziz Farah, Feeding Our Future Defendant No. 15. Over time, Farah was jointed on the school’s board by three of his business associates, Defendant Nos. 16, 17, and 21 in the case. All four were indicted as part of the Empire Cuisine network. The AG’s office documents that three other individuals, Defendant Nos. 18, 20, and 49 in the Feeding case, also benefitted financially from Gateway. All seven have pled not guilty and will go on trial in 2024.

Although classified as a public school, Gateway STEM is organized as a private nonprofit corporation, and thus subject to the oversight of the AG’s Charities Division. From the AG’s Friday news release,

An investigation by the Charities Division of the Attorney General’s Office found that Abdiaziz Shafii Farah, founder and executive director of Gateway STEM Academy, violated his fiduciary duties to Gateway by steering nearly $300,000 to companies owned or controlled by three of the school’s directors or officers, including a company that Farah co-owned. 

The AG adds,

The AGO’s investigation … found that Gateway funds were paid to companies headed by Mahad Ibrahim ($173,602.65) and Mukhtar Mohamed Shariff ($117,255) while they served as Gateway board members in 2021 and 2022.  Ibrahim and Shariff were charged in the same federal child nutrition fund-fraud indictment as Farah. 

All of this should have been obvious to anyone who took a look at Gateway’s Federal tax returns, as I did back in October. Returns filed covering Farah’s tenure reveal multiple instances of self-dealing and obvious, but undisclosed, conflicts of interest.

The AG’s office presents the deal as a “settlement” between the state and the school. But it’s not clear what either party is giving up, if anything.

There is no mention of the $300,000+ being returned to the state treasury by the school, or returned to the school by the alleged fraudsters.