Wife of Minneapolis Council Member Jamal Osman leads nonprofit with ties to fraud investigation

The wife of Minneapolis City Councilman Jamal Osman founded a nonprofit that reported feeding thousands of needy children through a federal feeding program now under investigation for alleged fraud.

According to government documents, Osman’s wife, Ilo Amba, founded Urban Advantage Services in November 2020. Minnesota Department of Education documents list Urban Advantage Services among 213 sites sponsored by Partners in Nutrition — a St. Paul-based organization that was one of the top sponsors of the federal nutrition program in Minnesota. Another top sponsor, Feeding Our Future, is at the center of what prosecutors are calling a $250 million fraud scheme, the first indictment of which was filed last month.

Amba has not been accused or charged with fraud. Several messages left with Osman and his office went unanswered on Monday or Tuesday. The Minnesota Reformer first reported the news of Amba’s connection to Partners in Nutrition.

According to Department of Education records that year, Urban Advantage Services said in its location application that it would prepare 2,000 meals per day in a downtown Minneapolis office building this year and would prepare 2,500 meals per day there in 2021.

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According to the Department of Education, which oversees federal funds distributed to the state for these after-school dining programs, Urban Advantage Services received $461,533 in federal reimbursements in 2020 and 2021.

Osman and Amba were listed among four people who started another organization called Stigma-Free International Inc. in 2019, which has been accused of embezzling millions of dollars through the federal program. Osman told the Star Tribune in March that he “quit” his role at the nonprofit in 2020, before Stigma-Free became active in the meals program, and had never heard of Feeding Our Future.

Ahmed Artan, the current president of Stigma-Free, was indicted last month on wire fraud and other charges and has pleaded not guilty.

The Department of Education suspended funding for Partners in Nutrition in January after the FBI unsealed search warrants relating to fraud investigations related to Feeding Our Future and its network of grocery distribution sites. While “Feeding Our Future” was at the heart of the documents, investigators named Partners in Nutrition as the money distributors to three subcontractors who they say spent little to no money on children’s food.

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In September, Partners in Nutrition, trading as Partners in Quality Care, sued the Department of Education, alleging that the Department of Education unlawfully forced them to shut down operations.

In charges announced later in September, federal prosecutors say an organization called “Sponsor A” operated as a small nonprofit before the pandemic and then dramatically increased the number of food locations it sponsored in 2020. Prosecutors say “Sponsor A” claimed to serve more than 80 million meals in 2021 and had received more than $200 million in federal reimbursements for providing the meals in 2021, up from $5.6 million Federal funds in 2019.

Prosecutors allege that most “Sponsor A” websites fraudulently inflated their claims to make it appear that they were feeding more children than was the truth.

In response to Partners’ lawsuit against the state, the Department of Education wrote in court documents that “Sponsor A” is Partners in Nutrition. The Department of Education wrote that partners like Feeding Our Future “smuggled millions of dollars to fraudulent website operators and sellers of luxury goods.”

The Department of Education said in court documents that Partners was directly responsible for distributing more than $57 million.

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No one has been prosecuted at Partners in Nutrition, which began sponsoring meal programs in 2016. Aimee Bock, the now indicted leader of Feeding Our Future, worked at Partners before starting her own organization.

In court documents filed in Partners’ lawsuit against the Department of Education, the Department lists Urban Advantage Services among 213 dining locations sponsored by Partners in Nutrition. After excluding partners from participating in the federal meal plan in May, the Department of Education told partners in June that it would deny funding to 213 sites when the after-school meal plan begins this month.

In July, the Ministry of Education informed partners that previous requests for meals for various reasons, such as B. insufficient paperwork, were rejected. Urban Advantage Services, the department wrote, delivered groceries, not meals as required by federal regulations.

The Minnesota Reformer reported that an office manager at a law firm in the same office building as Urban Advantage Services saw people packing groceries and loading trucks, but never saw children coming into the building to eat.


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