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MN Judicial Branch, Dept. of Education clash over nature of resumed payments to Feeding Our Future

While a judge says the Dept. of Education "voluntarily" resumed payments to FOF, MDE says the court "made it clear" MDE would face penalties should it not proceed.
Credit: AP
The offices of Feeding Our Future are shown Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022 in St. Anthony, Minn., a week after FBI agents raided the offices of Minnesota nonprofit. Federal authorities charged 47 people in Minnesota with conspiracy and other counts on Tuesday, Set. 2022, in what they said was a massive scheme that took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to steal $250 million from a federal program that provides meals to low-income children. Feeding Our Future’s founder and executive director, Aimee Bock, was among those indicted, and authorities say she and others in her organization submitted the fraudulent claims for reimbursement and received kickbacks. (Shari L. Gross/Star Tribune via AP)

ST PAUL, Minn. — A Ramsey County judge is pushing back against comments made by Governor Tim Walz about the Feeding Our Future scandal that took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to defraud the U.S. government of at least $250 million.

On Thursday, Walz said the Minnesota Department of Education’s hands were tied by a court order for it to resume food program payments despite concerns the state had raised.

A spokesperson for the Minnesota Judicial Branch sent out a press release on Friday, saying Ramsey County District Court Judge John H. Guthmann never ordered the Department of Education to resume payments to Feeding Our Future.

The press release went on to say that the Department of Education "voluntarily resumed making payments," adding that in a later court filing that the Department of Education "advised the court that (Feeding Our Future's) serious deficiencies were resolved as of June 4, 2021."

"As the public court record and Judge Guthmann’s orders make plain, Judge Guthmann never issued an order requiring the MN Department of Education to resume food reimbursement payments to FOF," the press release reads in part. "The Department of Education voluntarily resumed payments and informed the court that FOF resolved the 'serious deficiencies' that prompted it to suspend payments temporarily. All of the MN Department of Education food reimbursement payments to FOF were made voluntarily, without any court order."

However, according to the Minnesota Department of Education, the court "made it clear" that it would incur legal penalties should the department continue its legal fight to withhold penalties. 

“Feeding Our Future demanded that MDE make payments, and the court made it clear that if MDE were to continue the legal fight to withhold payments, MDE would incur sanctions and legal penalties," the statement reads. "The court held MDE in contempt for not processing Feeding Our Future Applications.”

Federal authorities on Tuesday announced charges against 48 people in Minnesota on conspiracy and other counts in what they said was the largest pandemic-related fraud scheme yet.

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