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Court hearings continue for Feeding our Future fraud suspects

Magistrate judge orders release of four jailed suspects in detention hearings Thursday as more new details emerge

MINNEAPOLIS — Editor's note: The above video first aired Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.

Liban Alishire hid in an upstairs bedroom at his Brooklyn Center home at 9 a.m. Tuesday as federal agents knocked on his door. They had been surveilling him in the preceding days, noticing that he usually left for work at 8:30 a.m.

But when his wife answered the door, she told the agents Alishire wasn't home. The feds didn't believe her after noticing Alishire's vehicle — a Mercedes — in the garage. 

The agents were there with a warrant to seize property and arrest Alishire on charges of money laundering, wire fraud, federal programs bribery and conspiracy in what has become known as the "Feeding our Future" meal program fraud.

Alishire's wife delayed federal agents for 40 minutes while the 42-year-old man attempted to reach his attorney, Matthew Forsgren by phone, Forsgren admitted in a detention hearing Thursday. 

And when Alishire finally surrendered and agents asked for his passport, he at first said he didn't know where it was. He then said that he didn't have one, IRS Special Agent Aaron Donald testified.

Despite all that — and the fact Alishire allegedly purchased two apartments and a resort in Kenya with some of the $1.6 million-worth of federal money he's accused of fraudulently receiving — federal magistrate judge David Schultz ordered Alishire be released from jail on GPS monitoring pending his trial. 

Prosecutors have until Monday to decide whether to appeal.

Alishire was one of three jailed suspect the U.S. Attorney's office fought to keep detained in a series of hearings at the federal courthouse in Minneapolis on Thursday. 

Schultz ruled that Abdiaziz Farah and Mohamed Ismail remain detained until trial. Those two were arrested earlier this year on charges of passport fraud.

Federal prosecutors agreed not to ask for detention for three other jailed suspects after they turned in their passports.

That included Mekfira Hussein, who had a one-way plane ticket for Ethiopia scheduled to leave Tuesday night, the same day the federal indictments were unsealed. 

Hussein's attorney Jason Steck said the feds were mistaken about the timing of her purchase of the ticket. Steck said Hussein bought it earlier this month because her father-in-law is gravely ill.

Hussein is accused of stealing $6.8 million in federal child nutrition program money for meals she claimed to serve needy children.

After the hearing, her attorney commented on the federal investigation.

"It looks to me like the U.S. Attorney’s office is pretty much indicting everybody in sight. Anybody associated with anybody who was associated with Feeding our Future. Feeding our Future’s friends and their friends and so on," Steck said. "It’s awfully expansive. I think it’s overly expansive. I think they caught a bunch of people in their net who didn’t need to be caught. And are not guilty of this. And I think Ms. Hussein is one of those."

During Alishire's detention hearing, prosecutors showed the judge exhibits including the website used to book stays at his new Nairobi condo allegedly purchased with U.S. federal money.

Magistrate Judge Schultz said in deciding whether to order detention when the prosecution says the defendant is a flight risk, he has to consider the defendant's motive to flee, means to flee, opportunity to flee and inclination to do so.

Schultz said he believed there are conditions he could impose instead that would ensure his appearance in court — GPS monitoring.

The magistrate also referenced another judge's ruling in the Anton Lazzaro sex trafficking case.

The remaining jailed defendant, Anab Awad, is scheduled for a detention hearing Friday.


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