Feeding Our Future, the St. Anthony nonprofit the FBI is investigating for alleged federal nutrition fraud, is closing its doors for good.
The nonprofit's three board members voted to dissolve the organization, they announced Friday — more than a month after the FBI raided its offices and froze Feeding Our Future's bank accounts. The charity hasn't been able to operate since then and its 65 employees were terminated, but the official process to dissolve could take more than four months because of the federal investigation and the nonprofit redoing audits and tax forms.
"We're headed toward closing, and all that entails will take some time," said Jennifer Urban, a St. Louis Park attorney who works with nonprofits and was hired in January to help the organization. "There's a lot of work, with regards to this organization, that needs to be done."
The nonprofit is redoing required audits and tax forms because Feeding Our Future didn't have an accountant on staff and the organization's leaders are now realizing that outside companies hired to do the work didn't complete forms "up to par," Urban said.
FBI investigators allege that Feeding Our Future played a central role in a "large-scale scheme" to defraud the government, using tens of millions of dollars meant to reimburse community groups, vendors and nonprofits for providing meals and snacks to children. Investigators allege that almost none of the money went to feed kids in need and instead funded personal costs — from luxury cars and lavish trips to lakefront homes.
Of the people named by the FBI, no one has been arrested and experts say it could be months before charges, if any, are filed. Aimee Bock, the executive director of Feeding Our Future, has denied that she or anyone she worked with submitted invalid claims. She maintains that she's been targeted because she worked with mostly minority businesses, many of them East African immigrants, and because she sued the Minnesota Department of Education, which distributed the federal child nutrition funds.
Since 2020, the education department has denied Feeding Our Future's site applications and repeatedly faulted Bock's management of her nonprofit, noting she didn't have a financial staff to manage her complex, growing operation. The education department declared the nonprofit "seriously deficient" in 2021 due to incomplete financial audits and a lapsed nonprofit status with the IRS.
Feeding Our Future initially hired outside companies to complete its financial work: a Los Angeles company called PoweredBooks Accounting in 2020, which did accounting functions, and Hashi CPA, a Minneapolis-based company, which prepared its required tax Form 990 for at least two years. Feeding Our Future terminated both Hashi CPA and PoweredBooks in September 2021, replacing them with a new firm because of concerns and a desire to work with a company specializing in nonprofit finances, Urban said.
Urban said Feeding Our Future didn't know there were quality issues with their financial forms and trusted the professionals they hired.
Two certified public accountants not involved with the case reviewed the nonprofit's 2020 tax Form 990, audits and federal single audits required because Feeding Our Future received so much in federal dollars. The forms are sprinkled with errors and inconsistencies such as basic accounting not adding up or incomplete forms, they said.
"When you see the form and you see all the mistakes, you wonder what else is wrong," said Marc Kotsonas, a CPA who works with nonprofits.
Curt Klotz, a local longtime CPA for nonprofits, said the inconsistencies and errors don't necessarily mean there's fraud. "Just reading the audit itself doesn't provide enough information to know what is behind the obvious mistakes in the report. But it is certainly odd to see those kinds of errors in an audit," he said in an e-mail.
Messages left with Hussein Hashi of Hashi CPA, which completed the tax forms, and PoweredBooks Accounting weren't returned Friday. Charles Amevo of Edina-based CPA Global Portfolio Consulting C.A. LLC, who completed the independent audit last year, said he was only reporting the financial statements and balance sheets that Feeding Our Future gave him, and didn't do any accounting work. His report was "unqualified," which means it's considered appropriate and a clean audit.
"They are looking for someone to blame," Amevo said. "They can do a thousand audits … I did not invent the information. I reported on … the information they gave me."
The Attorney General's Office withdrew Feeding Our Future as a registered charity last year after unsuccessfully requesting required tax forms and annual reports. After a reporter asked Bock about it on Jan. 27, Feeding Our Future filed the proper paperwork and fees with the agency the next day, saying the failure to file the required forms was inadvertent because the notice was sent to a wrong address.
Now, Urban said, Feeding Our Future is hoping the FBI will unfreeze its accounts, which sit with a $12,000 deficit now, so it can wind down operations, pay outstanding bills and pay the new accounting firm. Otherwise, if that doesn't happen, she said the organization will have to ask donors for donations to pay its final bills.
"There's a lot of support within the community, especially the Somali and BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color] community, and so we would need to transparently let them know that we're dissolving and that is an expensive process," Urban said.
The Minnesota Attorney General's Office is also investigating. The agency can take action against nonprofits including filing court orders to dissolve or ban a nonprofit from operating in Minnesota if it misuses funds or doesn't follow governance rules. Urban said Feeding Our Future is cooperating with both investigations.
Closing for good
On Wednesday, the nonprofit's current board members — Ali Egal, Henry Komolo and Amal Sala — voted unanimously to dissolve the organization, Urban said, and they signed paperwork with the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office. According to January paperwork filed with the state, the board members then were Egal, Jamie Phelps and John Senkler but Phelps and Senkler have since resigned, Urban said.
Board members have oversight of a nonprofit, reviewing financial information and managing its charitable assets. The board members said in the resolution that "widespread negative press coverage" and the organization's assets being frozen prompted the board to decide to voluntarily dissolve the organization.
"Feeding Our Future did a lot of great work for the community," Bock said in a statement. "It's heartbreaking that the organization must dissolve under these unfortunate circumstances."
Though it started small, Feeding Our Future quickly became the largest independent sponsor of federal food programs in the state, Bock said previously, reportedly distributing 100,000 meals a day to kids across Minnesota. Feeding Our Future received $197 million in federal nutrition program reimbursements last year — up from $307,000 in 2018. The FBI hasn't alleged that all of those funds were misappropriated, but according to search warrants unsealed so far, investigators think at least $48 million in aid was misspent.
Urban said Friday that Bock had substantial documentation from sites accounting for meals and when Bock had concerns about sites and terminated their contracts, the subcontractors just moved to other sponsors.
"It seems to me that Feeding Our Future has kind of gotten caught up in a larger issue," Urban said. "They followed the procedures as well as anyone could have. There's bigger politics in play here … we're just going to bow out and be accountable to the communities we served."