Juror Dismissed After Being Offered $120,000 to Acquit Defendants In Minnesota COVID-19 Fraud Case

A juror in a federal trial involving the misuse of money intended to provide food for children during the COVID-19 pandemic was dismissed Monday after someone offered her a $120,000 bribe. The 23-year-old juror, identified as Juror 52, was not home when an unknown woman left a bag full of cash at her house on Sunday night.

The woman reportedly told the juror’s father-in-law that the money was meant for Juror 52 and that she would receive another bag if she voted to acquit the defendants. When the juror learned about the incident, she immediately reported it to the police.

The trial involves seven defendants who are accused of fraudulently using a nonprofit called Feeding Our Future to steal $41 million. This case is part of a larger investigation involving 70 defendants, and according to the Associated Press, 18 of them have already pleaded guilty.

Following the alleged attempt to bribe the juror, U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel ordered the detention of all seven defendants in the Feeding Our Future trial. The judge emphasized the importance of protecting the community, considering that only the defendants and their lawyers had access to the juror’s information.

The U.S. Marshals Office has been asked to increase security measures in the courtroom and to confiscate the defendants’ cell phones. As part of the ongoing investigation into the alleged juror bribery attempt, prosecutors plan to request a search warrant for the defendants’ phones.

This case is part of a broader investigation into the misappropriation of taxpayer funds intended to help feed children from low-income families during the pandemic. According to prosecutors, only a small portion of the money actually went to charities meant to provide meals for kids, while the majority was used to purchase luxury items such as cars, jewelry, travel, and property.