Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Exploring Dar Al-Farooq’s Connection to Pandemic Relief Fraud Case

ResearchInvestigationsExploring Dar Al-Farooq’s Connection to Pandemic Relief Fraud Case

Defendants and witnesses in a series of trials concerning $250 million of “misused” federal child nutrition funds have implicated a far-reaching network of organizations and individuals across Minnesota. Prosecutors have so far painted a complex web of contracts, subsidies and kickbacks involving dozens of individuals and organizations.

Now, Islamist officials with high-level political contacts, based out of Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center and its subsidiaries, appear to be more closely involved than federal prosecutors initially realized.

Seventy people have been charged so far for their alleged role in what appears to be the largest ever case of pandemic relief fraud. This most recent trial involves seven defendants from Feeding Our Future, a nonprofit organization believed to have played a pivotal role in the scheme. Any day now, the jury is expected to reach a verdict.

Federal prosecutors accuse the initial seven of embezzling $49 million in federal funds by “vastly inflating the number of meals served at 50 locations across Minnesota during the pandemic” and using federal reimbursement monies to “buy luxury cars, houses, jewelry and property overseas — and very little food,” reports the Minnesota Reformer.

Mukhtar Mohamed Shariff, the only defendant to testify, told the jury last week that he is a long-standing member of the Dar Al-Farooq mosque in Bloomington. Indeed, it was at Dar Al-Farooq that Shariff met Mahad Ibrahim, who is also indicted on federal charges over the alleged fraud.

Four (ostensibly fraudulent) “food sites,” operated by Feeding Our Future and its network of associated nonprofits and shell companies, were hosted at Dar Al-Farooq. Three of the food sites were organized at the Success Academy, a taxpayer-funded charter school based at the mosque and closely involved with the mosque leadership. The fourth was managed on mosque grounds by the Mind Foundry Learning Foundation, a group established by Mahad Ibrahim.

“Everybody” at Feeding Our Future received “kickbacks,” explained Hadith Ahmed, a prosecution witness. He told the jury, as paraphrased by the Minnesota Reformer, that “mosques made good distribution sites because they were high-traffic areas, [and] were already nonprofits.”

Ahmed claims to have received kickbacks from Dar Al-Farooq, reports the Sahan Journal. Although it appears the mosque did not pay Hadith directly. Prosecutors presented a $10,000 check to Ahmed from Empire Cuisine, a restaurant owned by one of the defendants. Empire Cuisine was the food supplier for Dar Al-Farooq’s food site organizer, Mind Foundry.

Hadith seems to have some influence over the mosque, with the Sahan Journal reporting that a “prosecutor presented emails in court showing that Hadith helped Mukhtar Shariff, a defendant in the trial, change the mosque’s sponsor … to Feeding Our Future.”

Amid this vast web of financial conspiracy, no mosque officials have yet been charged. Notwithstanding, defense lawyers have wheeled out a steady supply of mosque-affiliated witnesses to argue that the food sites operated by Feeding Our Future were in fact genuine.

According to the Minnesota Reformer, “The mosque’s director, Khalid Omar, and imam, Abdirahman Kariye, testified that they saw long lines of cars there to pick up bags of groceries.” The newspaper adds that “Abdikadir Haji, dean of the Success Academy, a charter school within the mosque, testified” as well.

However, further questioning revealed that the defendant, Mukhtar Mohamed Shariff, “has been friends” with Karyie “for over 10 years and has traveled abroad with him extensively.”

As FWI has previously revealed, Kariye is a U.S. manager at Helping Hand for Relief and Development, a prominent radical charity affiliated with the violent South Asian Islamist movement Jamaat-e-Islami. In 2017, the charity partnered with a Pakistani terrorist movement accused of involvement in the 2008 Mumbai bombings.

FWI has previously noted that Karyie appears to be on a government watchlist because of his radical views, especially about women and Western society, and his ties to extremist institutions. Kariye attended the Islamic University of Minnesota, which appears to be a sister organization of Dar Al-Farooq, and whose instructors express violently anti-Jewish rhetoric.

Defense lawyers appear keen to explain away the alleged misuse of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars as mere Islamic financing ideas combined with a cultural “preference for doing (business) outside the gaze of the government.”

The movement of monies between this complicated network of nonprofits and companies, as well as payments sent abroad, can perhaps be explained, defense witness Professor Paul Martin Vaaler told the jury, through sharia’s proscription on usury, adding that Somalis avoid credit cards on the grounds that “cash is king.”

But local Muslim congregants of Dar Al-Farooq appear to have felt differently. One exhibit (whose admissibility has been fought by the defense), features a series of writings to the local community, published in 2021 and signed by “EX YOUTH OF DFC [Dar Al-Farooq].”

Its authors accuse Dar Al-Farooq officials of trying to “silence” their complaints of a vast fraudulent conspiracy that had “looted” the community. They allege mosque officials have embezzled government funds, diverted donations away from the mosque and the community, and towards a “business center” operating “for profit.”

The business center appears to be 1701 American Blvd, a Bloomington Minnesota address bought by Shariff and “other community leaders” for the alleged Feeding Our Future shell company Afrique. This address has been a key focus for prosecutors during the Feeding Our Futures trial.

Omar appears to have been more closely involved with the Feeding Our Future network than previously acknowledged. The Dar Al-Farooq head’s name is listed as the owner on a development application for 1701 American Blvd.

A development application submitted to the City of Bloomington reveals that Omar was closely involved with Afrique, a key component of the Feeding Our Future fraud.

Moreover, another organization named SAKAN, an official partner of Dar Al-Farooq and for which Omar serves on the board, is based at that same 1701 address today.

The “ex youth of DFC” note close collaboration between Afrique and “UADEEG.” Bill Glahn, an Adjunct Policy Fellow Center of the American Experiment notes that UADEEG “is a brand name registered by the Al Jazari Institute in March 2020.” (The Al Jazari Institute is a seminary program run by Dar Al-Farooq).

The anonymous writers accuse both Mukhtar Shariff and Dar Al-Farooq director Mohamed Omar of being the “masterminds” behind much of this.

In a second, less clear context, the anonymous community dissenters further accuse Omar of serving as the “main conspirator and the shot caller along with Asad Zaman.” Zaman is almost certainly the same person as the head of the Minnesota branch of the Muslim American Society, a prominent national Islamist organization.

Zaman has long been involved with Dar Al-Farooq and is openly extreme. His public posts include links to a neo-Nazi, Holocaust-denial website, which promotes viciously anti-Semitic conspiracy theories; as well as blogs that claim that American presidents “depend upon the votes and influence of Jews in New York who support Israel, have always been ready to give the Israelis the weapons to enable them pursue this evil. In effect, U.S. foreign policy is determined by Israel.”

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Both Zaman and Mohamed Omar maintain high-level political connections in the state.

In 2019, the Middle East Forum revealed that Democratic lawmakers in Minnesota nominated both Zaman and Dar Al-Farooq’s Omar to a “taskforce on the consequences of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.” These nominations were issued in spite of well-reported anti-Semitism from the pair.

Meanwhile, Bill Glahn notes that “Omar’s Twitter (X) account bio … lists him the director of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center and co-founder of the Muslim Coalition of Faith in Minnesota and ISAIAH. Faith in Minnesota is ISAIAH’s 501c4 “dark money” and political campaign finance operation.”

Certainly, Omar is actively involved in murky Minnesota politics. Glahn reports that while “Omar has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the Feeding Our Future case,” “his name appears on a list of campaign donors attending a December 20, 2021, political fundraiser for Minneapolis city council member Jeremiah Ellison, alongside eight (8) individuals (including Shariff) who were later indicted in the case.”

Jeremiah Ellison is the son of Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is leading state investigations into the Feeding Our Future fraud. However, FWI notes that, along with funding Ellison’s son, Dar Al-Farooq’s Mohamed Omar appears to be on good terms with Keith Ellison as well.

The prosecution of all the seventy Feeding Our Future officials and partners is a long way from concluding. It seems increasingly likely, though, that further evidence will emerge of involvement by officials of Dar Al-Farooq and its subsidiaries in this extraordinary scandal.

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