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Charges announced over alleged $120K bribe attempt during pandemic relief fraud trial

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(WASHINGTON) — Five people have been charged in connection with an alleged plot to bribe a juror with $120,000 cash during a federal trial over pandemic relief fraud.


Federal prosecutors called the incident an “elaborate” and “chilling,” but ultimately foiled, scheme to infiltrate the jury.

The alleged bribery attempt was reported as the six-week trial in Minneapolis was wrapping up against seven people charged in connection with an alleged $250 million fraud scheme through the Minnesota nonprofit Feeding Our Future.

One of the anonymous jurors — identified as Juror 52 — told police an unknown woman left $120,000 cash at her home the night of June 2 in an attempted bribe to acquit the defendants, according to U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger. The woman handed a gift bag to a relative of the juror, who was not home at the time, and promised more money if the juror returned a verdict of not guilty, according to court documents. The juror reported the incident to local authorities, who turned over the cash to the FBI, Luger said.

The alleged bribe was announced the following day in court and the seven defendants on trial — all of whom would have had access to Juror 52’s identifying information — were ordered to turn over their cellphones, according to court documents.

“The news shocked all in the case and all who work in our criminal justice system,” Luger said during a press briefing on Wednesday announcing the bribery charges. “Corruption of a jury through intimidation or bribery is a serious federal crime that carries a significant prison sentence.”

Juror 52 was dismissed on June 3, and as deliberations got underway, a second juror was dismissed on June 4 after reportedly learning about the alleged attempted bribe from a family member, according to Twin Cities ABC affiliate KSTP.

Federal agents began probing the alleged bribe attempt to determine the identities of the co-conspirators and how the identity and address of Juror 52 were revealed.

Abdiaziz Farah, a defendant in the trial who was ultimately convicted, allegedly organized the conspiracy, Luger said. He deleted all of the contents of his phone in court on June 3 before turning it over to authorities, Luger said. A list of the names of the jurors — who were only known to the court — was found at his home hidden in a water bottle during the execution of a search warrant on June 5, Luger said. A bag containing the fingerprints of Ladan Ali, of Seattle, was also found in his home, according to Luger.

Ali was ultimately identified as the woman who showed up at Juror 52’s home, according to Luger. She arrived in Minneapolis on May 30 and allegedly followed Juror 52 home from the courthouse on May 31 in a rental car, according to Luger. She allegedly agreed to deliver the bribe money in exchange for $150,000, according to the indictment.

Ali was allegedly recruited for the juror bribery scheme by Abdimajid Nur, a defendant in the trial who was also ultimately convicted, according to Luger. A so-called blueprint instructing Juror 52 on how to win an acquittal was allegedly found on his phone, Luger said.

The $120,000 cash was allegedly provided by Said Farah, another defendant in the trial who was ultimately acquitted. He allegedly deleted from his phone a video of Ali delivering the bribe to Juror 52’s home, Luger said.

Abdulkarim Farah, the brother of Abdiaziz Farah and Said Farah, allegedly assisted Ali the night the bribe funds were delivered and took the video of her at the juror’s home, according to Luger. The indictment alleges he also removed the license plates from Ali’s rental car prior to the bribe attempt.

All five defendants have been charged with conspiracy to bribe a juror, bribery of a juror and corruptly influencing a juror. Abdiaziz Farah was also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly deleting the contents of his phone through a factory reset, Luger said.

ABC News has reached out to the attorneys who represented Abdiaziz Farah, Said Farah and Nur during the trial. It is unclear if Ali and Abdulkarim Farah have an attorney who can speak on their behalf.

“These defendants engaged in the chilling attack on our justice system,” Luger said. “They sought to buy a juror and use her to infiltrate the jury with their own false arguments — arguments that had nothing to do with the evidence or law.”

The indictment alleges the conspirators researched Juror 52’s personal information online and on social media and surveilled her to confirm her home address and obtain information about her daily habits. They allegedly targeted Juror 52 because she is young and was believed to be the only juror of color.

The blueprint for the juror allegedly advised Juror 52 to argue to other jurors that the government targeted the defendants because they are immigrants and was “prejudice[d] against people of color,” according to the indictment. It also allegedly included directions for her to vote “NOT GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS FOR ALL DEFENDANTS,” according to the indictment.

“Fortunately for all of us, Juror 52 could not be bought and she terminated their scheme,” Luger said.

The defendants will begin making their initial appearances Wednesday afternoon, the DOJ said.

Luger said he believes the case marks the first time some of the juror bribery charges have been filed in Minnesota.

The federal trial during which the bribe was reported marked the first in the sweeping Feeding Our Future fraud case. Dozens of defendants are accused of exploiting funds from a federal child nutrition program during the COVID-19 pandemic to purchase big-ticket items like luxury cars and houses.

The jury reached their verdict against the seven defendants on June 7 — convicting five and acquitting two.

Abdiaziz Farah was found guilty of wire fraud, money laundering, federal programs bribery and other counts. He was an owner and operator of Empire Cuisine and Market, a for-profit restaurant that was one of several entities that participated in the scheme by receiving more than $28 million in fraudulent Federal Child Nutrition Program funds, the DOJ said.

Nur was found guilty of receiving and laundering Federal Child Nutrition Program funds from Empire Cuisine and Market and other entities involved in the scheme, the DOJ said.

Said Farah, who was accused of fraudulently receiving approximately $4.5 million in federal nutrition program funds, was acquitted of all charges.

Seventy total defendants have been charged in the Feeding Our Future case, 18 of whom have entered guilty pleas, according to the DOJ.

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