MINNEAPOLIS – A St. Paul man has pleaded guilty to his role in the $250 million fraud scheme that exploited a federally-funded child nutrition program during the COVID-19 pandemic, announced United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger.
According to court documents, Abdul Abubakar Ali, 40, admitted that from December 2020 through January 2022, he knowingly and willfully conspired with others to participate in a fraudulent scheme to obtain and misappropriate millions of dollars in federal child nutrition program funds that were intended as reimbursements for the cost of serving meals to underprivileged children.
According to his guilty plea, Ali used a non-profit entity called Youth Inventors Lab as a shell company to carry out his scheme. Ali and his co-conspirators enrolled Youth Inventors Lab in the Federal Child Nutrition Program under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future. After enrolling in the program, Ali and his co-conspirators immediately began submitting claims for reimbursement for purportedly serving meals to hundreds or thousands of children a day. In support of these fraudulent claims, Ali and his co-conspirators prepared and submitted fake invoices purporting to document the purchase of food from a vendor, S & S Catering. But S & S Catering did not provide Youth Inventors Lab any meals and Youth Inventors Lab did not serve any meals.
According to his guilty plea, Ali submitted fake invoices from his company, Bilterms Solutions, to Youth Inventors Lab. The invoices were for purportedly providing technology services, which Ali and Bilterms Solutions did not actually perform. The purpose of the invoices was to hide the source of the funds Ali was receiving for participating in the fraud. Ali received approximately $82,000 from Youth Inventors Lab. Ali also received payments through Bilterms Solutions from co-conspirators made through another company, Franklyn Transportation. Those payments were made to Ali for his participation in the fraud scheme. Ali received $47,000 from Franklyn Transportation.
In total, Youth Inventors Lab claimed to have served over 1.3 million meals between December 2020 through June 2021 and fraudulently received $3,029,786 in reimbursements from Feeding Our Future.
Ali pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court before Judge Nancy E. Brasel to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled at a later time.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI, IRS – Criminal Investigations, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph H. Thompson, Harry M. Jacobs, Chelsea A. Walcker, Matthew S. Ebert, and Joseph S. Teirab. Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Baune is handling the seizure and forfeiture of assets.