MINNEAPOLIS — There is no evidence that politicians who received campaign contributions from Feeding our Future meal fraud suspects knew the cash may be the fruit of a crime, But KARE 11 News has combed through state and federal records documenting political contributions to trace the money and find out what has happened to it.
Minnesota State Senator Omar Fateh in February returned 11 donations worth $11,000 after news broke of the FBI's investigation into the federal meal program fraud. The contributions came from people named in the January search warrants who are now defendants charged in the federal case, as well as some of their associates.
In 2021, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey received nine donations of $1000 each, totaling $9,000 from nine different defendants. They include Abdinasir Abshir, Asad Abshir, Abdihakim Ahmed, Abdirahman Ahmed, Ahmed Ghedi, Abdikadir Mohamud, Salim Said, Abdi Salah, and Abdulkadir Salah.
Frey has not said if he is doing anything with that money.
Minneapolis City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison received $3000 in political contributions from five suspects indicted in the fraud scheme.
Ellison told KARE 11 he gave back the money identified from suspects earlier this year when the FBI search went public, and has flagged the remaining donations now that the indictments are unsealed. He said he plans to return that money as well.
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar received a total of $7,400 in donations from three defendants, including two associated with Safari Restaurant, which allegedly received $16 million in fraudulent funds.
Omar donated the money in February.
"Rep. Omar’s campaign immediately donated the contributions to local food assistance charities as soon as the FBI investigation was made public back in February. She encourages all other elected officials who have received donations from these named individuals to donate their contributions to local food assistance charities," campaign manager Jeremy Slevin said in a statement.
More recently, State Senator John Hoffman returned $3,000 in donations made by Mekfira Hussein and her associates. Hussein was arrested after booking a one-way flight to Ethiopia scheduled to leave the night the indictments were unsealed.
Hussein also made contributions to Amane Badhasso, who lost in the primary. Her campaign could not be reached for comment.
Not all the campaign contributions from Feeding our Future defendants stayed in Minnesota. Eight defendants gave money totaling $8,750 to Washington State Representative candidate Shukri Olow.
When contacted by KARE 11 News, Olow was unaware which of the contributions came from the federal fraud defendants.
Most of the mentioned donations were made in 2021 while the federal fraud was reportedly ongoing, but not all of them stopped when the investigation was made public.
In May 2022, four months after the FBI search warrants and after Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit against Feeding our Future, Liban Alishire donated $2,700 to Ellison's re-election campaign.
Alishire is accused of stealing $1.6 million dollars in federal money by participating in Minnesota's widespread meal program fraud.
Ellison's campaign announced they flagged the donation as soon as the indictments were unsealed and all names of defendants made public, and the money was refunded at that time.
Former Minnesota State Representative John Thompson also received a $1,000 donation from Hanna Marekegn, who is charged but U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger announced is expected to plead guilty. Thompson could not be reached for comment.
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