Federal prosecutors have charged Abdiaziz Farah, one of the targets of an FBI investigation alleging the misspending of millions of dollars in federal meal funds, with knowingly making a false statement on a passport application.
He's the second target of the federal probe to be charged with making a false statement to secure a passport. Authorities arrested Farah's business partner, Mohamed Jama Ismail, at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on his way to Kenya via Amsterdam last month.
A May 20 affidavit filed in federal court alleges that Farah's companies, including Empire Cuisine and Market in Shakopee, took in $32 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds — but most of it did not go to purchasing food for poor children. Rather, the affidavit says, much of the public money was directed to companies controlled by Empire owners and sent abroad and used to buy real estate and vehicles.
The FBI alleges that Farah used program funds to buy two lakefront lots on Prior Lake for $1 million, and paid another $1.5 million to a custom homebuilding company with the intention of constructing an 8,000-square-foot house on the property. Authorities claim he sent $1.5 million in federal nutrition money to Kenya and China, and used program funds last year to buy five cars, including a 2022 Tesla Model Y sedan.
Authorities have not charged Farah, Ismail, or anyone else in connection with alleged fraud in the meal program.
The FBI executed search warrants in January at 20 locations around the Twin Cities, including Farah's home in Savage and Empire Cuisine and Market. Authorities said they seized his passport card and listed it in a receipt they gave to him of inventory taken. They also claimed to have found his passport book in a truck seized during the raid.
The affidavit says that Farah bought a one-way ticket to Nairobi, Kenya, on March 16 set to depart in a week, but he never boarded the flight.
Meanwhile, Farah applied for a new passport on March 22, claiming that his most recent passport card had been lost and that he could not find his passport anywhere in his house or car. On parts of the application asking him to explain where the loss or theft occurred and when the passport was stolen, Farah stated "unknown" and signed the application under penalty of perjury.
Farah is being held by the U.S. Marshals Service. His attorney could not be reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon.