By Louis Hoglund

Ten more people have been charged in a $250 million food aid fraud case, which has ties from Twin Cities all the way to Pelican Rapids. 

Sixty suspects have not been charged in the ongoing probe. The latest update was published by the Star Tribune newspaper on March 13. 

More charges are likely pending, but whether those will extend to Pelican is uncertain. 

The case gained widespread attention in September 2022, when the first indictments went public. At the time, Pelican Rapids was listed as one of the distribution sites for the flow of food over the course of the COVID pandemic. 

“Feeding Our Future” is the non-profit organization that has been implicated in the fraud. 

Among those newly accused suspects this month, is Kawsar Jama, 41, of Egan, Minnesota. According to the Star-Tribune Report, she allegedly claimed she served some 1.46 million meals to children—including Pelican Rapids kids. 

U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said Jama claimed to operate federal food aid sites in Pelican Rapids, Burnsville, and Minneapolis. 

In Pelican Rapids, Jama allegedly claimed to serve 2,560 meals daily to needy children. Pelican Rapids’ population is only about 2,500.

Pelican’s connections are unclear, and it appears nobody locally has been charged in connection with the fraud case.

The Pelican Rapids Press reported in December of 2021 that weekly food distributions were conducted for a number of weeks, at that time. But there was no local reference to “Feeding Our Future,” the non-profit which has been implicated in the case.

There were Sunday food distributions in downtown Pelican, dating back to 2021 and early 2022, serving as many as 100 people a week—primarily to recipients in the Somali and Hispanic communities.

It should be noted that these distributions were not connected to the long-established non-profit Pelican Rapids Area Community Food Shelf. 

Minneapolis-based organizations, Garba Hare Community Service and Partners in Quality Care were cited as non-profit providers that helped obtain food products that were transported and distributed by volunteers to Pelican Rapids, and also to Moorhead, during 2021-22. The discredited and indicted “Feeding Our Future” was not mentioned at the time as one of the non-profit food distributors.

Newly charged suspect Jama used phony invoices, and none of the children’s names on reimbursement forms matched any of the children enrolled in school in Pelican Rapids, reported the Star Tribune.

U.S. Attorney Luger added that Jama did not even operate a physical location at which she claimed to be serving the meals.  

Jama is charged with five counts of wire fraud and four counts of money laundering. She is accused of using money she received from the Federal Child Nutrition Program on living expenses, real estate, and vehicles that included a Tesla Model X and Infiniti QX56 SUV.

As far as the Pelican ties, the Pelican Rapids Press documented a series of increased local food distributions in Pelican during several months of the pandemic, but there was no indication that an exceedingly large volume of food arrived for local distribution. None of the Pelican distributions appear to have been linked, at least not directly, to “Feeding Our Future.”