Pandemic Fraud Juror Got a Bag Full of $120,000 and a Promise of More if She’ll Acquit

News & Politics

A juror in a huge pandemic fraud trial reports receiving a bag full of $120,000 with a promise of more where that came from if she acquits seven defendants who allegedly stole $40 million from a fund created to feed poor children during the pandemic.

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The seven defendants are part of a huge federal criminal complaint alleging that 70 individuals stole more than $250 million of pandemic relief funds. 

“This is completely beyond the pale,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Thompson said in court on Monday. “This is outrageous behavior. This is stuff that happens in mob movies.”

The difference between real life and a mob movie is that the mobsters had to work to steal the money. Stealing pandemic funds from Uncle Sam was like taking food out of the mouths of children.

Two non-profit organizations, Feeding Our Future and Partners in Nutrition, were small tax-exempt groups before the pandemic. However, the program to feed poor children from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Minnesota State Department of Education allowed the tiny nonprofits to grow to more than $200 million each. 

“Prosecutors allege they produced invoices for meals that were never served, ran shell companies, laundered money, indulged in passport fraud, and accepted kickbacks,” according to the Associated Press.

This is one of the largest pandemic fraud cases going. Only a tiny percentage of the $40 million went to feed poor kids. “The rest was spent on luxury cars, jewelry, travel and property,” according to AP.

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The 23-year-old juror said she immediately turned over the bag of cash to police. She said a woman left it with her father-in-law Sunday with the message that she’d get another bag of cash if she voted to acquit, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Defense attorney Andrew Birrell told the judge that the bag of cash is “a troubling and upsetting accusation.”

Before allowing the trial to continue with more closing arguments on Monday, U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel questioned the remaining 17 jurors and alternates, and none reported any unauthorized contact. Brasel decided to sequester the jury for the rest of the proceeding as a precaution.

If the bribe was something that “happens in mob movies,” the crooks must have been paying close attention to detail in the film. A “mysterious woman” showed up at the young woman’s home late on a Sunday night, “dressed in black” and carrying a gift bag with the cash.

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Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

It was a present for the 23-year-old juror in the Feeding Our Future federal trial, the woman explained to the juror’s father-in-law, who answered the door just before 9 p.m. If the juror voted to acquit the seven defendants in the fraud case, there would “be more of that present tomorrow,” the woman said, handing over a white floral gift bag filled with $100, $50 and $20 bills, according to an FBI search warrant filed Monday.

Chillingly, the woman in black knew the juror’s first name even though none of the juror’s names had been released. She was only known as “Juror #52.”

With more than 60 defendants yet to be tried in the pandemic fraud case, you have to wonder what other surprises are in store for us.

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