Written by Ashton Snyder on
 June 4, 2024

Minneapolis Juror Receives $120,000 Bribe To Acquit Fraud Defendants

Daily Mail reported that a juror in a high-profile pandemic-related fraud trial was dismissed after reporting a bribe attempt involving $120,000 in cash and a note urging her to acquit the defendants.

Juror 52, as she was known, was removed from her duties following the bribery attempt, which included a significant amount of cash and a promise of more money if she complied. The case under trial involves seven accused individuals allegedly defrauding a pandemic food aid initiative meant for children.

Bribe Attempt Revealed Amid High Stakes

The illicit offer to Juror 52 came on a Sunday evening when a Somali woman delivered a sack containing $120,000 to the juror’s father-in-law with a note. The note urged Juror 52 to vote "not guilty" in exchange for more money. Remarkably, the delivery woman knew the juror's first name, which had never been publicly released.

Juror 52 immediately notified authorities and handed over the bribe to the police. The FBI is now in the custody of the cash as it investigates further. The case includes disturbing allegations where the defendants are accused of stealing more than $40 million from a food assistance program designed for low-income children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Extensive Fraud Claims and Defense Responses

The seven individuals on trial are part of a broader indictment, which includes 70 people in total. Among these, 18 have already pleaded guilty to the charges, suggesting the colossal nature of the fraud, which amounts to $250 million, significantly dwarfing the size of Juror 52’s bribe attempt.

Legal representatives for the defense argue the scenario may reflect lapses in record-keeping rather than intentional fraud. However, U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel has taken the matter seriously, exemplified by the sequestration of the remaining 17 jurors and alternates for the duration of the trial.

Judge Brasel also ensured stringent security measures after the bribery revelation. An FBI agent has confiscated all the defendants' cell phones to prevent any further tampering or influence attempts.

Tough Measures and Parental Concern

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Thompson was outspoken about the situation, describing it as behavior reminiscent of "mob movies." His sentiment echoed throughout the courtroom, portraying the seriousness of the situation.

In contrast, defense attorney Andrew Birrell viewed the allegations as troubling and upsetting, urging for fair assessments within the courtroom confines. Meanwhile, Judge Brasel expressed her understandable concern for the juror's safety, emphasizing that the juror remains "terrified" and at risk of retaliation.

Judge Brasel underscored the importance of protecting the jurors, acknowledging the high likelihood of internal conspiracy among those with access to personal information, as stated by FBI Special Agent Travis Wilmer. The exact perpetrator remains under investigation, though it's clear the conspiracy reaches deep into the circle of defendants.

Nonprofits Tied to The Allegations

Prosecutors assert that the defendants created fake invoices, used shell companies, laundered money, and took kickbacks, with around $200 million managed by nonprofits Feeding Our Future and Partners in Nutrition in 2021, much of which did not reach the needy children it was intended for.

These funds originated from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and were managed by the State Department of Education. Despite strong oversight, the collusion within these nonprofits has been alarming. Additionally, Special Agent Wilmer's affidavit details an attempt to bribe a juror, highlighting the severity and breadth of the fraudulent activities, which has led to heightened caution by Judge Brasel in the proceedings.

Ongoing Trial and Implications

The trial, which started in April, involves individuals connected to a restaurant participating in a food aid program and is marked by bribery allegations. Extensive evidence, including thousands of fabricated invoices, has been presented by lead attorney Thompson, highlighting the scale of the fraud. The defense is actively trying to reduce the severity of these accusations. As the trial progresses, maintaining judicial integrity and ensuring justice is paramount, with the case serving as a stark example of how fraud can infiltrate charitable efforts during crises.

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