48 people charged in embezzlement scheme surrounding “Feeding our Futures” MN

This week’s edition covers stories 
from September 15th to September 21st, 2022.

Today’s issue is 920 words, a 7.1-minute read.

This week’s edition covers the 48 people charged at “Feeding our Futures” MN for an embezzlement scheme , Adnan Syed’s vacated conviction on Monday, and Twitter backlash against movie ‘The Woman King’ starring Viola Davis.

Local News

U.S. Attorney Andy Luger holds a news conference concerning the 48 people charged in an embezzlement scheme involving Minnesota nonprofit “Feeding our Futures” 📸 AFP

48 people have been charged in an embezzlement scheme centered around the “Feeding our Futures” non profit organization in Minnesota. The non profit, which in theory was intended to serve meals to low income children from across the state, served few to no children at all over the 20 months it was operational. The executive director, Aimee Bock, recruited dozens of people to open around 200 food sites statewide. These food distribution sites submitted both fabricated invoices for reimbursement as well as lists of the children served and their ages, only a small portion of whom were real children. Then, those operating the food sites pocketed the reimbursement money that would later be used on luxury cars, real estate, and jewelry, among other things. 

In all, the current tally of money stolen sits at more than $250 million, with 48 people charged. The total of meals reported was 125 million, none of which existed. The thought of an embezzlement scheme on this scale is hard to imagine, much less one that involved individuals brazenly lying as they took money destined for hungry children and put it in their own pockets. Thankfully, the indictment assembled is compelling, especially given how swiftly evidence was gathered.


Adnan Syed, whose case was chronicled in the hit podcast “Serial,” smiles and waves as he leaves the courthouse after a judge overturned Syed’s 2000 murder conviction at the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., September 19, 2022. 📸 Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

Adnan Syed’s conviction was vacated Monday after a Baltimore judge’s extensive review of prosecutors withholding exonerating evidence.  Now, prosecutors have 30 days to re-trial or to acquit him. Syed was convicted in 1999 for murdering his ex-girlfriend in high school, Hae Min Lee. Prosecutors violated the Brady rule, where they withheld evidence that “that could help exonerate a criminal defendant.” They also failed to disclose a death threat from one of the suspects in the original investigation. The chief of the sentencing review unit for the prosecutor’s office, Becky Feldman, found evidence that revealed new suspects in notes, ordered a “high-tech DNA” test that didn’t conclude Syed’s connection to the murder, and reviewed witness at the time, Jay Wilds, inconsistent story. This evidence allowed Feldman to file a motion to vacate. The true-crime podcast ‘Serial’ brought public attention to Syed’s case and discussed the found evidence, his incarceration despite the lack of evidence, and his release on Monday. The National Registry of Exonerations found in their 2020 paper that out of the first 2,400 exonerations, “Concealing exculpatory evidence—the most common type of misconduct—occurred in 44% of exonerations.” Additionally, police officers were found to have “committed misconduct in 35% of cases”, while prosecutors committed misconduct in 30%. The court awaits the results from some of the tests until they make their decision to acquit Syed.

‘The Woman King’ receives backlash on Twitter due to online criticism about its historical accuracy. The movie centers around the all-female warriors known as the Agojie that protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s, to which Rotten Tomatoes gave a 95% on their Tomatometer while the Audience Score was 99%. Historically, the Dahomey Kingdom had sold their captives to European slavers and enslaved some for their own work in plantations. Viola Davis, lead actress and producer, plays Nanisca who questions the enslavement of their own people in the film. Davis responded to the backlash by stating that most of the story had been fictionalized. Davis’ husband, Julius Tennon, reiterated the need to avoid making the movie a documentary, or a history lesson, versus something to entertain people. “The history is massive and there are truths on that that are there. If people want more, they can investigate more,” said Tennon. Despite the film’s research, and the numerous historian consultations, some Twitter users find it offensive while others believe it “condemns” slavery.

Bottom of the News

Tina Jackson holds a class at the Oxford Community Center in the Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota 📸 Ben Hovland | MPR News 

Tina Jackson, known to her community as the “Lady of Line Dance” has been teaching dance for over 15 years. She grew up near the Rondo neighborhood and frequented the Oxford Community Center where she now holds her classes. Some fanatics have danced with her for over a decade, and they keep coming back for more. Jackson shared that teaching soul line dancing to her community is her way of giving back, and it shows. She’s recognized and loved wherever she goes in Rondo, and is sustained by the family that grew from her students.

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