Fraud Case Juror Dismissed After Report

We’ve got a story that seems ripped straight from a Hollywood mob movie, but it’s happening right here in real life.

On Monday, a juror was dismissed from a federal trial in Minneapolis after she reported an astonishing attempt at bribery. According to the juror, a woman dropped off a bag containing $120,000 in cash at her home, with the promise of more money if she voted to acquit seven defendants charged in a massive fraud case involving pandemic relief funds.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Thompson didn’t hold back his outrage, calling the bribery attempt “completely beyond the pale” and comparing it to scenes from mob movies. This brazen act underscores the high stakes and murky depths of a conspiracy that allegedly cost taxpayers $250 million.

The seven defendants currently on trial are part of the first wave of 70 people expected to face justice for their roles in what prosecutors describe as one of the largest pandemic-related fraud cases in the nation. Eighteen others have already pleaded guilty, and authorities have recovered about $50 million. Prosecutors allege that only a small portion of the money was used to feed low-income children as intended, while the rest funded extravagant purchases like luxury cars, jewelry, travel, and property.

The trial, which began in April, has seen defense attorneys challenge the thoroughness of the FBI’s investigation. They argue that what might appear as fraud could be chalked up to record-keeping errors as their clients tried to navigate rapidly changing regulations for the food aid program. The initial defendants on trial were affiliated with a restaurant participating in the program, while others still awaiting trial include Aimee Bock, founder of Feeding Our Future, who has pleaded not guilty.

The bribery attempt came to light when the 23-year-old juror turned over the bag of cash to the police. According to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the money was delivered to her father-in-law on Sunday with a promise of more if she voted to acquit. Defense attorney Andrew Birrell expressed his dismay over the accusation, calling it “troubling and upsetting.”

U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel took immediate action, questioning the remaining 17 jurors and alternates to ensure no further unauthorized contact had occurred. None reported any issues, but as a precaution, Judge Brasel decided to sequester the jury for the remainder of the trial. “I don’t do it lightly,” she said, emphasizing the need to ensure a fair trial. Additionally, she ordered an FBI agent to confiscate the defendants’ phones but did not immediately decide whether to detain the defendants.

The fraud case revolves around pandemic relief funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, administered by the state Department of Education. The funds were meant to provide meals for children through nonprofits and other partners. Two of the involved groups, Feeding Our Future and Partners in Nutrition, saw a massive increase in disbursed funds during the pandemic, handling around $200 million each in 2021. Prosecutors claim these organizations created invoices for meals that were never served, ran shell companies, laundered money, committed passport fraud, and accepted kickbacks.

As the trial continues, the shocking attempt at bribery adds another layer of complexity to an already intricate case. The story highlights the lengths some individuals will go to evade justice and the crucial importance of safeguarding the integrity of our legal system. Stay tuned for more updates on this unfolding legal drama!


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