Update on AG Keith Ellison’s lawsuit against Feeding Our Future’s ThinkTechAct

In a belated move, the state Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit against the free-food nonprofit ThinkTechAct in early January 2023.

Ellison narrowly won re-election as Attorney General last November. The lawsuit was the first act of his second term as AG.

As Attorney General, Ellison is nominally in charge of regulating the state’s nonprofit corporations. During his recent re-election campaign, he came under heavy criticism for failing to act against the $250 million Feeding Our Future scam during his first term.

The Edina offices of the nonprofit ThinkTechAct were subject premises No. 1 in the third FBI search warrant in the case. Nonprofit board members Mahad Ibrahim and Abdiaziz Farah are defendants Nos. 17 and 15, respectively, in the case. In his indictment, the U.S. Attorney accuses the two of stealing millions of dollars from the federal free-food programs.

ThinkTechAct’s offices were located at this co-working facility in Edina.

As noted in Ellison’s lawsuit, Ibrahim now resides in a Columbus, Ohio, suburb. Ibrahim and Farah have petitioned to postpone civil proceedings against them until after their federal criminal case has concluded.

Farah is the co-owner of the Empire Cuisine restaurant in Shakopee. Farah’s home in Savage was raided on January 20, 2022 (subject premises No. 3), as part of the Feeding Our Future FBI searches. During the search, Farah’s passport was seized.

Farah was arrested last spring after purchasing a one-way ticket to Kenya. He was charged with passport fraud in addition to the charges for defrauding the Federal free-food programs. He remains free, awaiting trial.

Farah is also well known as the Founder and Executive Director of a K-8 public charter school in Burnsville, MN. Gateway STEM was founded in 2018 and until recently Ibrahim served on its board of directors.

In Gateway’s less than five years of operation, the school has received nearly $16 million in state payments through the MN Department of Education (MDE). That total includes payments received by Gateway for its separate participation in the free-food programs.

According to the most recent student test scores published by MDE, only 10 percent of Gateway’s students are proficient in math, 17 percent in reading. As for STEM? Only 11 percent of its students are proficient in science.

These results compare unfavorably with the statewide average of only 45 percent proficiency in math. Gateway’s students are all classified as African American. Statewide, African-American proficiency rates in math stood at 18 percent for 2022.

More than two-thirds of Gateway’s students are English learners. Nearly all are from low-income households.

In addition to the nonprofit and the two board members, Ellison’s lawsuit also names ThinkTechAct’s executive director Bianca Scott in his lawsuit. Scott was not mentioned in any of the search warrants or indictments in the Feeding Our Future Federal case. In his complaint, the Attorney General (p. 19) accuses Scott of taking $9,125 from the free-food programs.

In the state case, Scott has agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and to a five-year ban on nonprofit activity.

The Star Tribune reported on Scott’s $1,000 fine as if it were a major litigation triumph:

Court penalizes leader of ‘sham’ Edina nonprofit that worked with Feeding Our Future

The order was the result of the first legal action Attorney General Keith Ellison has taken against one of Feeding Our Future’s sites. 

Technically, yes, the fine was implemented in an order issued by a judge. But it was part of a mutual settlement agreement reached between Scott and the Attorney General’s office.

The $1,000 doesn’t cover the $9,000 the Attorney General accuses Scott of taking, much less The $21 million the U.S. Attorney accuses her two co-defendants of taking (p. 2), or the $250 million missing (p. 11), overall.

For now, the lawsuit continues on only against the company itself. ThinkTechAct is currently listed as “inactive” with the Secretary of State’s office for failing to renew its registration for 2023. The nonprofit has vacated its space in the Lifetime Work facility.

Ellison has had dealings with other figures in the free-food scandal.

According to records on file with the state’s Campaign Finance Board, Ellison received a campaign contribution in the maximum amount of $2,500 from convicted FOF fraudster Liban Alishire, of JigJiga fame. The contribution was received in late May 2022 and returned in September, after Alishire was indicted by the U.S. Attorney.