MINNEAPOLIS – A federal criminal complaint has been filed against Mohamed Jama Ismail, 49, of Isanti, charging him with passport fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger.
According to court documents, Ismail is one of the targets of a federal investigation into the misappropriation of Federal Child Nutrition Program funds. During the investigation, law enforcement identified several companies, including ThinkTechAct Foundation, Empire Cuisine & Market LLC, and Empire Enterprises LLC, that were receiving a suspiciously high amount of reimbursements under the Federal Child Nutrition Program. Collectively, these companies received more than $30 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds from approximately May 2020 to January 2022. As alleged, Ismail and a partner owned and controlled Empire Cuisine & Market LLC, which he and other co-conspirators used to fraudulently obtain, launder, and misappropriate millions of dollars in federal funds. For example, ThinkTechAct received more than $21 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds from February 2021 to January 2022, based on the claim that the company was serving meals to thousands of children a day at multiple distribution sites. Bank records show that ThinkTechAct transferred more than $12 million in federal funds to Empire Cuisine & Market LLC. In addition to the $12 million it received from ThinkTechAct, Empire Cuisine & Market also received more than $12 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds directly from Partners in Quality Care and Feeding Our Future during this same period.
As alleged, most of the funds were misappropriated and sent through shell companies to an array of individuals involved in the scheme. During the investigation, law enforcement recovered receipts for more than $800,000 in international wire transfers from Empire Cuisine & Market to entities in China. Bank records show that all of the money sent to China was traceable to Federal Child Nutrition Program funds. Bank records also show more than $700,000 in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds were wired from Empire Enterprises LLC (previously transferred from Empire Cuisine & Market) to Nairobi, Kenya in 2021.
According to court documents, on January 20, 2022, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Ismail’s home in Savage. During the search, law enforcement seized Ismail’s U.S. passport. Ismail provided law enforcement agents with the combination to the locked safe where the passport was stored. On March 22, 2022, Ismail applied for a new U.S. passport, falsely representing on the application that he had “lost” his passport “at home.” Ismail also claimed that he had filed a police report related to the loss of his passport. According to the Savage Police Department, Ismail has not filed any police reports related to the loss of his passport. Based on his application, the U.S. Department of State issued Ismail a new U.S. passport on March 22, 2022.
According to court documents, Ismail booked a flight from Rochester, Minnesota, to Nairobi, Kenya, via Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, scheduled to depart on April 20, 2022. At 10:30 a.m. on April 20, 2022, at Rochester International Airport, Ismail used his newly obtained U.S. passport to check in for the flight. Ismail arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and was arrested by FBI agents while boarding his flight to Amsterdam.
Ismail is charged with one count of passport fraud. He made his initial appearance earlier today in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI, IRS, Postal Inspection Service, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, with assistance from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport Police.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Thompson is prosecuting the case.
A complaint is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.