Perhaps you’ve heard in the news the last few days about the 47 people charged in Minnesota earlier this week for their alleged roles in a $250 million fraud scheme. It involved the federally-funded Feeding Our Future child nutrition program during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As it happens, the case has ties to Willmar. According to the Associated Press, the Willmar case involved a restaurant that typically served only a few dozen people a day.
Two defendants offered the owner $40,000 a month to use his restaurant, then billed the government for some 1.6 million meals through 11 months of 2021, according to one indictment. The defendants listed the names of around 2,000 children — nearly half of the local school district’s total enrollment — while only 33 names matched actual students, the indictment said.
According to KWLM’s JP Cola, defendant Ahmad Artan claimed his company, Stigma-Free International, was serving children from a building on Southwest 4th Street. Artan’s company received 6.5 million dollars from the federal program. In addition, the owner of the building says he never heard of Stigma Free and was not leasing it to Artan.