Steve Schleicher Wins Acquittal for “Feeding Our Future” Defendant

June 17, 2024 06:59 AM
Steve Schleicher

Steve Schleicher, partner at Maslon LLP, won acquittal for “Feeding Our Future” defendant. Following a seven-week trial, a federal jury in Minnesota acquitted defendant Said Shafii Farah on June 7 of all nine charges in what federal officials claimed to be the nation’s largest fraud case arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Farah was represented by Maslon attorneys Steve Schleicher and Clayton Carlson. 

Said Farah, an owner of Bushra Wholesalers LLC, was one of over 70 defendants charged for their alleged roles in a $250 million fraud scheme involving a federally funded child nutrition program during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Seven of those defendants, including Farah, were tried together, charged with wire fraud, bribery, money laundering, and conspiracy. Said Farah was accused of wrongfully receiving approximately $4.5 million in federal nutrition program funds. He and his business partner, co-defendant Abdiwahab Maalim Aftin, were the only two defendants acquitted of all charges. 

“We’re grateful that our client has been exonerated," said Steve, who argued that his client was simply supplying groceries to others who were involved with the meal distribution program and was not guilty of any wrongdoing. Said Farah was released from jail after the verdict Friday.

The government alleged that Said Farah worked under the sponsorship of the nonprofit organization Feeding Our Future, which is accused of coordinating a massive diversion of federal funds intended to feed underserved children in Minnesota while they weren't able to attend school and obtain meals there. The U.S. Department of Justice claimed that the alleged scheme exploited changes in the federal child nutrition program that allowed for-profit restaurants to participate in the food aid program. Regulators also allowed parents to bring meals home instead of requiring children to eat on site, changes that prosecutors say made the program vulnerable to fraud and abuse.

The overwhelming majority of federal cases never go to trial and full acquittals are extremely rare. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately .4% of all defendants charged in federal court are acquitted at trial.  

“We believed in our client’s case,” said Steve, who attributed the successful outcome to “preparation, hard work, and thoughtful advocacy.” 

Steve is a former federal prosecutor who specializes in civil and criminal jury trials. He is best known for the prosecution of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd and recently achieved a complete defense verdict for Polaroid in a $300 million dollar civil breach of contract case.

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