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Jury Returns Verdicts After Fraud Trial Bribery Attempt

Five are convicted, two acquitted in case involving $40M in pandemic relief
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 7, 2024 3:12 PM CDT
Jury Returns Verdicts After Fraud Trial Bribery Attempt
This photo supplied by the US attorney's office for Minnesota shows cash from a bag that was left at the home of a juror outside Minneapolis.   (U.S. Attorney's Office for Minnesota via AP)

A jury convicted five Minnesota residents but acquitted two others on Friday for their roles in a scheme to steal more than $40 million that was supposed to feed children during the coronavirus pandemic. The case received widespread attention after someone tried to bribe a juror with a bag of $120,000 in cash. That juror was dismissed before deliberations began, and a second juror who was told about the bribe attempt was also dismissed. An FBI investigation of the attempted bribe continues, with no arrests announced, the AP reports.

The seven defendants are the first of 70 to stand trial in what prosecutors have called one of the nation's largest COVID-19-related frauds, exploiting rules that were kept lax so that the economy wouldn't crash during the pandemic. More than $250 million in federal funds was taken in the Minnesota scheme overall, with only about $50 million of it recovered, authorities said. The defendants faced counts including conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and federal programs bribery. Abdiaziz Shafii Farah, Mohamed Jama Ismail, Abdimajid Mohamed Nur, Mukhtar Mohamed Shariff, and Hayat Mohamed Nur were found guilty on most of the counts against them. Said Shafii Farah and Abdiwahab Maalim Aftin were acquitted on all counts they faced.

An AP analysis published last June documented how thieves across the country plundered billions in federal COVID-19 relief dollars. Fraudsters potentially stole more than $280 billion, while another $123 billion was wasted or misspent. The loss represented 10% of the $4.3 trillion disbursed by last fall. Nearly 3,200 defendants have been charged, and about $1.4 billion in stolen aid has been seized, according to the Justice Department. In the Minnesota case, according to an FBI agent's affidavit, a woman rang the doorbell at a juror's home the night before the case went to the jury. She handed a relative at the door a gift bag. "The woman told the relative to tell Juror #52 to say not guilty tomorrow and there would be more of that present tomorrow," the agent wrote.

(More fraud stories.)

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