Juror reports receiving $120K bribe attempt in pandemic relief fraud trial

More money was allegedly promised if the juror helped acquit the defendants.

June 4, 2024, 5:18 PM

Federal authorities are investigating after a juror in a federal trial over an alleged pandemic relief fraud scheme told police she was given $120,000 cash in an attempted bribe to acquit the defendants, according to court documents.

Seven people are on trial in connection with what federal prosecutors called the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme to date. They are accused of taking part in a $250 million fraud scheme through the Minnesota nonprofit Feeding Our Future that allegedly exploited funds from a federal child nutrition program during the COVID-19 pandemic to purchase big-ticket items like luxury cars and houses.

The cash in the alleged bribery attempt was delivered on Sunday, a day before closing arguments in the trial in Minneapolis federal court were set to conclude, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in connection with the case.

Images of cash in connection with an alleged jury bribe included in a search warrant filed on June 3, 2024.
U.S. Department of Justice

A woman went to the home of the juror -- identified in court filings as Juror #52 -- shortly before 9 p.m. Sunday, according to the affidavit. Juror #52 was not home at the time but a relative answered the door. The woman "handed a gift bag to the relative and said it was a present for Juror #52," using the juror's first name, the affidavit stated.

"The woman told the relative to tell Juror #52 to say not guilty tomorrow and there would be more of that present tomorrow," the affidavit stated.

The relative found a "substantial amount of cash" in the gift bag, and when Juror #52 returned home the juror "immediately called 911 to report the incident," the affidavit stated.

The Spring Lake Park Police Department responded and found approximately $120,000 in $100, $50 and $20 bills in the gift bag, according to the affidavit, which included photos of the cash. The FBI took custody of the cash on Monday and interviewed the juror.

Images of cash in connection with an alleged jury bribe included in a search warrant filed on June 3, 2024.
U.S. Department of Justice

The search warrant sought the cellphones of the seven defendants -- "all of whom would have had access to Juror #52's identifying information" -- and the devices are currently in the custody of the FBI, the affidavit stated.

"[It] is highly likely that someone with access to the juror's personal information was conspiring with, at a minimum, the woman who delivered the $120,000 bribe," the affidavit stated.

The court -- including the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys -- learned about the alleged attempted bribe Monday morning.

Juror #52 was dismissed on Monday and the judge ordered that the jurors be sequestered for deliberations, according to Twin Cities ABC affiliate KSTP.

As deliberations got underway Tuesday morning, a second juror was dismissed after reportedly learning about the alleged attempted bribe from a family member, according to KSTP.

The seven defendants on trial have denied any wrongdoing in the alleged Feeding Our Future fraud scheme and have pleaded not guilty to their charges.

They are among dozens of people charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and bribery in connection with the alleged scheme. Several others charged in the case have since pleaded guilty.

Among the defendants awaiting trial is the founder of Feeding our Future, Aimee Bock, who has also maintained her innocence.