Commuters wear face masks while riding the subway in New York, June 6, 2021. (TED SHAFFREY / AP)
WASHINGTON – The US Department of Justice announced on Tuesday federal criminal charges against 47 defendants for their alleged roles in a fraud scheme worth 250 million US dollars that exploited a federally-funded child nutrition program during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 47 defendants are charged across six separate indictments and criminal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and bribery
The 47 defendants are charged across six separate indictments and criminal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and bribery.
They were alleged to have devised and carried out a massive scheme to defraud the Federal Child Nutrition Program, a federally-funded program designed to provide free meals to children in need, according to the DOJ.
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US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that these indictments have alleged "the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme charged to date" in the United States.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the US Department of Agriculture waived some of the standard requirements for participation in the Federal Child Nutrition Program.
Among other things, the USDA allowed for-profit restaurants to participate in the program, and allowed for off-site food distribution to children outside of educational programs.
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