United States of America v. 309 East Lake Street

Right before the New Year, a U.S. District Court judge approved the sale of three properties forfeited in the Feeding Our Future case.

The properties were Nos. 10, 11, and 12 in the forfeiture case filed by the U.S. Attorney almost a year ago. I visited the three properties this past summer. The forfeiture notice was still attached to the front door.

Here I am reflected in the door to suite 309:

The three properties in south Minneapolis include two commercial buildings (301 through 309 E. Lake St. and 311 through 319 E. Lake) and one nearby vacant lot on 3rd Avenue. The addresses are associated with the S&S Catering group.

A couple of the figures from this group have pled guilty in federal court, but the principals have not, which makes the forfeiture sale all the more remarkable. MPR News reports,

On Dec. 29, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson approved the sale of three Minneapolis properties, including two commercial buildings on Lake St. and a nearby lot on 3rd Ave. S. owned by three of the defendants

MPR adds,

Court filings indicate that buyers have offered $4.9 million total for the three properties. Nelson ordered that any money left over after the mortgages and other expenses are paid off be held in a government-controlled account as the case moves forward.

Records on file with Hennepin County show that the defendants purchased all three properties in August 2021 for a total price of $4.95 million. After the mortgage is settled and all closing costs, court costs, legal costs, and other taxes and fees are satisfied, it’s not clear that there will be any money left over to benefit taxpayers.

MPR’s reporting on the forfeiture sale comes at the very end of an article on Gov. Walz’s proposals for more oversight of state grants to nonprofits. The headline:

Walz pitches nonprofits on oversight proposal in wake of alleged meal fraud

At this point, the fraud is no longer “alleged,” as there have been several criminal convictions in the case. Over the weekend, the Star Tribune editorial board weighed in on the need for more oversight, writing,

Better oversight is a must in state government

Minnesota needs to increase scrutiny of programs in wake of Feeding Our Future scandal. 

The board says,

But there is one overriding need that should be a top priority: restoring trust in government’s ability to manage the funds entrusted to its care.

Although it may be a top priority among Star Tribune editors, the issue does not make the cut on the priorities of the new Democratic majority in the state legislature.