A tangled web of deceit

Digging deeper into Feeding Our Future reveals widespread connections.

Since the FBI raids on Feeding Our Future and related organizations on January 20, to date only two people involved have been arrested, both on charges of passport fraud. One of the two has pled guilty, and 48 have been indicted on federal charges.

American Experiment covered the events and players involved from the beginning, including the Safari Restaurant, which, according to an FBI search warrant, was conducting fraud on an industrial scale. The business also received publicity due to its close connection to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and other Minneapolis-based politicians.

In 2020, Safari Restaurant operated its own free-food distribution site at its now closed central Minneapolis outlet, claiming to serve up to 5,000 children per day. The program was operated under the federal Summer Food Service Program, overseen locally by the state Department of Education (MDE).

In the autumn of 2020, MDE determined that for-profit restaurants could no longer host free-food distribution sites. At that point, Safari switched from being a distribution center to a vendor to other sites across the state. The FBI claims that little of the money Safari received from May 2020 to November 2021 was used to buy food.

Jeremiah Ellison, a member of the Minneapolis City Council and son of the state’s attorney general, received contributions from four of seven figures associated with Safari, all of whose names appear in the FBI search warrants. Each of the four donated $600, and all the donations were received on December 20, 2021, according to filings at the county’s campaign finance agency.

Two other Minneapolis Democrats, State Senator Omar Fateh and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, received contributions in 2021 from some of these men. Sharmarke Issa, who headed the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA), appointed twice by Mayor Jacob Frey in 2019 and 2021, has since resigned. He has been accused by the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota of buying property with the ill-gotten gains of the Feeding Our Future scandal. MPHA’s chief executive is Abdi Warsame, a former member of the Minneapolis City Council, and who was appointed to his post by Frey in 2020.

Issa’s business partner is Abdi Salah, a senior aide to Frey. Salah resigned his city position in February, telling the Star Tribune it was for personal reasons unrelated to the scandal. Before moving to the mayor’s office, Salah had worked as a senior aide to then-city councilman Warsame. Warsame’s city council campaign account is still active. However, no reports have been filed for calendar years 2019, 2020, or 2021.

Warsame’s successor on the city council, representing Ward 6, is Jamal Osman, who has his own ties to the free-food scandal through another organization, Stigma-Free International.

Issa purchased a four-unit apartment building with Salah in south Minneapolis for $386,000. The city’s biggest landlord (through the housing authority) became a small-time landlord in his own right.

According to the FBI, approximately $200,000 of the building’s purchase price came from the free-food scandal through Salah’s brother, a part-owner of Safari.

Issa and Salah are not Frey’s only connections to the Feeding Our Future scandal. The mayor took in $6,000 in political donations from six of the seven figures linked to the affair. Another of the six, Abdikadir Mohamud, was appointed by Frey to a public safety working group in December 2021.

With every layer uncovered in the Feeding Our Future scandal and the Free Food program, more of the associated players are found linked to Minneapolis politicians. The question remains: Who will be the next?