In Feeding Our Future, parallels with an earlier alleged scandal

The current Feeding Our Future alleged scandal — in which no person has been arrested or charged — has parallels to another alleged scandal from just a few years ago.

As previously discussed, the Feeding Our Future alleged scandal bears the marks of another scandal that vanished without a trace: one involving Minnesota child-care providers. Sensational headlines of $100 million in fraud and suitcases of cash leaving the country emerged in early 2018. Like the free-meal program, the child-care scandal involved a state agency reimbursing private entities for providing services to children of low-income families.

A March 2019 audit by the state Legislature couldn’t confirm the suitcase story or the $100 million figure, but it did find signs of “pervasive” fraud within a taxpayer-funded program.

In the child-care scandal, the state agency involved was the Department of Human Services (DHS). Three officials, including the agency head, left in the wake of the scandal.

Much of the focus of that alleged scandal centered on the agency’s inspector general, Carolyn Ham. After dragging on for nine months in 2019, the investigation of Carloyn Ham was quietly dropped, clearing her name. In December 2019, Ham moved into a different, high-ranking job at the agency, where she remains to this day.

At the same time, DHS confirmed that, yes, more than $100 million in improper payments was involved. As reported by Fox 9 in 2019,

Separately, agency officials said Monday [December 2, 2019] that $106.5 million in wrongful payments had come to light in 2019 alone. News outlets – not DHS – have uncovered many of the errors.

Fast forward two years, we have the outlines of a similar scandal: a state agency (this time the Department of Education), and businesses and nonprofits claiming millions in reimbursements for children served. Verifying how many children were served, at what locations, and at what cost becomes the tricky part. As before, a large dollar amount of missing money, $48 million, has been floated.

But this time, it was the agency itself that first raised alarms, and brought in the FBI to investigate. The FBI search warrants name many individuals and organizations. Not all of the name and entities are under investigation. Many were not searched, but were only named in order to describe locations and events in the story.

But of those dozens of different entities (both nonprofit and for-profit) named across the three FBI search warrants, 43 appear to be of interest to the FBI. In addition, several other corporate names have appeared in media accounts. Several are restaurants or otherwise have obvious food connections.

Two businesses include the words “child development” in their corporate names. Naturally, childcare facilities, like schools, are prime locations to host a food program for children.

Two other businesses have the words “home care” or “home health care” in their names.

To be clear, there have been no connections made to the principals of the current alleged scandal and the figures named in the earlier childcare scandal or any other government-funded program. And not one person has been arrested or charged.