Republicans attack Minnesota governor in $250 million food fraud case

st. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — Republicans attacked Democratic Gov. Tim Waltz on Monday after the judge took an unusual step in dissenting. administrative claim A judge has stopped payments to Feeding Our Future, which is the subject of a $250 million federal fraud case.

Republican candidates for governor, attorney general, and state auditor Scott Jensen, Jim Schultz, and Ryan Wilson said Waltz and other top Democrats are doing more to stop allegations of fraud before they happen. said it should have been done. Federal prosecutors called it the biggest pandemic-related scam last week in the country.

But the warring parties are divided over how far Ramsay County District Judge John Guzman went to force the Minnesota Department of Education to resume paying Feeding Our Future. A court statement issued late Friday said the judge “never issued an order” to the state to resume payments, but if the state fails to restore the flow of funds, the judge may The State Department produced hearing transcripts showing that a lawyer threatened to insult an attorney.

The Republican candidate largely accepted the judge’s view. Jensen asked for an independent inquiry to report before he and Walz could hold evidence. next discussion October 18th.

“What did Governor Waltz know? When did he learn what he knew? When did he decide to use district court judges as scapegoats for the Ministry of Public Administration and Education? … … Who are you trying to protect?” Jensen asked at the press conference.

The Waltz administration has defended itself against Republican claims that it poses new challenges to a campaign that has been dominated by abortion, crime and the economy.

“MDE filed a whistleblower complaint against this fraud scheme. They caught it early and worked diligently to stop it,” the governor’s office said in a statement. repeatedly asked the federal government to investigate and partnered with the FBI to ensure accountability, even though they fought the Feeding Our Future bogus lawsuit in court.”

The office of Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a statement saying it had been “very committed to holding Feeding Our Future accountable for two years.”it said The Attorney General’s Office worked closely with the Education Department Because I shared my allegations and evidence with the FBI.

“Without the Attorney General’s involvement in flagging that fraud and turning it over to federal criminal investigation powers, there probably would not have been a federal investigation or indictment,” the statement said. “The FBI applauds this cooperation.”

Forty-nine people have been indicted in a scheme that allegedly exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to steal $250 million from federal programs designed to provide nutritious meals to low-income children it was done. The latest defendant was due to leave the United States for Turkey, but on Monday he was arrested by the FBI at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Many of the defendants create a company that falsely claims to serve food We have fed tens of thousands of children across Minnesota and are subsequently seeking reimbursement for these meals through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrition Program administered in Minnesota by the Minnesota Department of Education. Prosecutors said the defendants used the money to purchase luxury cars, real estate and jewelry.

Waltz said Thursday that the Minnesota Department of Education was bound by a court order to resume payments for the food program despite concerns raised by the state. I said I asked for the refund to continue.

Jensen expressed skepticism that the FBI would have directed states to continue making millions of dollars in fraudulent payments, and asked for clarification from the FBI.

Cindy Barrington, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Minneapolis field office, said the agency would not comment on the ongoing investigation.

Guthmann took the unusual step of pushing back late on Friday. The state court system issued a statement with his permission that he never ordered the education department to reinstate payments to his Feeding Our Future.

But the Minnesota Department of Education said late Friday that the judge had no choice.

“The court has clarified that MDE will be subject to sanctions and legal penalties if it continues its legal battle to withhold payments,” the agency said in a statement.

The agency also circulated minutes from last year’s pre-Guzman hearing, saying the agency had failed to meet the legal tests required to stop payments.

Jeremy Miller of Winona, who leads the Republican majority in the Minnesota Senate, on Monday agreed with Jensen’s call for school board member Heather Mueller to resign.

“Based on Judge Guzman’s statement, Gov. Waltz and Commissioner Mueller have been dishonest to the public about the legal process and have failed to protect taxpayer money from the largest COVID-related fraud in the nation,” Miller said in a statement. said in


Associated Press writer Amy Faullity contributed to this article.