How US citizens linked to Covid relief fraud bought property in Kenya

The US Justice Department announced on Tuesday that it has indicted 47 individuals with committing a heinous fraud against anti-hunger programs during the coronavirus outbreak, stealing $250 million by billing the government for meals that were never served.

According to the indictments, the defendants spent their money on real estate in the United States, Kenya, and Turkey, as well as vehicles and other luxury items.

“These defendants exploited a program designed to provide nutritious food to needy children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, they prioritized their own greed, stealing more than a quarter of a billion dollars in federal funds to purchase luxury cars, houses, jewelry, and coastal resort property abroad,” reads the release on the US Justice Department website.

“To carry out the scheme, the defendants also created and submitted false documentation. They submitted fraudulent meal count sheets purporting to document the number of children and meals served at each site. The defendants submitted false invoices purporting to document the purchase of food to be served to children at the sites,” the statement reads.

In one of the cases, Abdiaziz Shafii Farah, owner and operator of Empire Cuisine and Market LLC, and seven others were charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, bribery of federal programs, and money laundering for their roles in the Federal Child Nutrition Program fraud scheme. Using this company alone, Abdiaziz is accused of laundering over $7 million in program funds.

According to records, Empire Cuisine and Market LLC participated in the Federal Child Nutrition Program in April 2020 through the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future. Empire Cuisine and Market LLC’s owners and co-conspirators established additional locations around Minnesota, as well as dozens of shell corporations.

The defendants claimed to have served millions of meals during the course of the fraud scheme. The defendants collected more than $40 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program monies based on their bogus claims, which they stole for their own personal advantage, including vehicle purchases, vacation, real estate, and property in Kenya.

On June 1, 2021, Abdiaziz Shafii through Abdimajid Nur sent $206,428 from Empire Enterprises to Capital View Properties Ltd. in Nairobi, Kenya. Bank records show that more than $700,000 (KSh 84,420,000) in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds were moved from Empire Enterprises LLC to Nairobi, Kenya in 2021, according to court documents.

The funds had previously been transferred to Empire Enterprises from Empire Cuisine & Market.

Between May 4, 2021 and June 1, 2021, Empire Enterprises LLC sent funds to Capital View Properties Nairobi, Kenya in three tranches of $204,795 (KSh 24,698,277), $300,000 (KSh 36,180,000) and $206,428 (Ksh 24,895,216).

On May 17 2021, one Abdiwahab Aftin also sent $200,000 (Ksh 24,214,000) to Capital View Properties.

Abdiaziz Shafii also told a co-conspirator that he had invested more than $6 million in Kenya over a three-year period ending in 2021.

Another defendant, Mohamed Ismail Jama, informed FBI agents that he owned three properties in Nairobi, Kenya, where his wife and five children live.

Ismail revealed that in 2018, his wife and children relocated to Nairobi, Kenya. It is at this time that Ismail bought a residence in Nairobi roughly five years ago, as well as a stake in an African textile company.

Ismail further stated that he purchased another house in Nairobi around a year ago with $150,000 (KSh 18,090,000) from his textile company and that he also owns a rental property in Nairobi.

Ismail informed FBI officials that his wife shares her time between Kenya and the United States, but the agents said it was all a lie because US Customs and Border Protection agency records revealed Ismail’s wife had not returned to the US since moving to Kenya.

Authorities in the United States arrested Ismail on April 20, 2022, at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as he boarded an Amsterdam-bound flight with plans to travel to Nairobi, Kenya.

According to the charges, Ismail obtained a new passport illegally in March after his previous one was seized by federal investigators in January. He was charged with one count of passport fraud for allegedly making false claims in order to obtain a new passport by stating his passport had been “lost.”

The defendants are also accused of spending the monies on luxury vehicles like as Porsches and Teslas, as well as foreign excursions to Dubai, Turkey, and Kenya.

In a separate case, Liban Yasin Alishire and two others are accused of similar charges and are said to have collected more than $1.6 million in Federal Child Nutrition Program funding, with comparable expenses.

Liban created a shell company, Hoodo Properties, and used it to purchase real estate in Kenya.

On September 22, 2021, Liban Alishire is said to have made $57,000 (KSh 6,874,200) wire transfer from ALISHIRE to Individual B.F. at Banque Cantonale de Geneve towards the purchase of a unit at the Karibu Palms Resort in Diani Beach, Kenya.

On November 22, 2021, he made another $216,000 (KSh 26,049,600) wire transfer from Hoodo Properties to Jaafar Jelle & Co. towards the purchase of another unit at the Karibu Palms Resort.

Liban further made another wire transfer worth $85,000 (KSh 10,251,000) on January 19, 2022 from Hoodo Properties to Abdulrahman Saad and Associates towards the purchase of a 5-bedroom apartment in Nairobi, Kenya.

According to the court filings, if the defendants are convicted of any of the Counts of the Indictment, they must forfeit to the United States any property, real or personal, engaged in a transaction or attempted transaction.

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