The night before a multimillion-dollar fraud trial was set to wrap up, a woman drove to the home of one of the jurors, who was not there at the time, prosecutors said. When the juror’s relative opened the door, the woman allegedly handed over a gift bag and parted with a message: “Tell her there will be another bag for her if she votes to acquit.”

Inside the white bag splashed with butterflies and flowers were stacks of 100-, 50- and 20-dollar bills totaling $120,000, according to an FBI affidavit.

The juror, a 23-year-old woman, immediately called the police when she returned home.

The bribery attempt on Sunday night became the latest twist in a legal saga involving 70 defendants accused in a massive pandemic fraud scheme that bilked the U.S. government of some $250 million. According to the Justice Department, a network of individuals and organizations tied to the Minnesota-based nonprofits Feeding Our Future and Partners in Quality Care “exploited” a federal program meant to feed children in need during the global health crisis, instead spending the funds on luxury cars, houses, vacations, jewelry and property abroad.

Feeding Our Future and Partners in Quality Care did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s requests for comment.

Of the dozens of people charged in what prosecutors deemed a “brazen scheme of staggering proportions,” at least 18 have pleaded guilty. Over the past six weeks, a group of seven people has become the first to stand trial in the case. They face a total of 41 charges, including wire fraud, bribery and money laundering.


According to court records, the defendants are all linked to food vendors and distribution sites that received federal funds disbursed by the nonprofits to provide ready-to-eat meals to children – securing some $41 million for 18 million meals. Yet, prosecutors allege that the defendants served far less food than they reported – some of them none at all. Rather, they allegedly faked invoices and fabricated lists of made-up children’s names to siphon funds for personal expenses.

Attorneys for the defendants, however, have argued in court that their clients provided meals to thousands of people in need during the pandemic and spent the funds on necessary business costs. They placed the blame on the nonprofits that oversaw the vendors. Throughout the trial, the defense has also tried to discredit a government witness who participated in the scheme and has cooperated with investigators in hopes of getting a more lenient sentence.

“When you paint with a very broad brush, you’re able to paint over … some inadequacies,” defense attorney Patrick Cotter said, according to a report by Minneapolis’ Star Tribune newspaper.

On Monday, the alleged attempt at jury tampering came as a bombshell in a trial that was set for closing arguments and heading to deliberations.

“This is outrageous behavior,” U.S. Assistant Attorney Joe Thompson said in court, WFLA reported. “This is the stuff that happens in mob movies.”

Defense attorney Andrew Birrell told the judge that the claim about the bag of cash being given to the juror is “a troubling and upsetting accusation,” the station reported.


The allegation prompted U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel to order all seven defendants into custody. Their phones were confiscated and are in FBI custody.

The identity of the woman who allegedly brought the bag to the juror’s home remains unknown. The FBI is now investigating. Juror bribery and jury tampering are felonies.

“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,” an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit, adding that the woman knew the juror’s name. (The jurors’ identities are only known by the prosecutors, defense attorneys and defendants.)

Meanwhile, the jury has been sequestered as deliberations continue.

On Tuesday, Brasel announced that a second juror had been dismissed and replaced by an alternate after the 25-year-old woman had a call with a family member, who revealed the bribery situation.

According to KARE11, when the woman told her relative that the jury was being isolated, the relative asked, “Was it because of the bribe?”

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