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Woman allegedly attempts to bribe juror on COVID fraud case with $120K — all 7 defendants arrested
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Woman allegedly attempts to bribe juror on COVID fraud case with $120K — all 7 defendants arrested

'This is stuff that happens in mob movies.'

A juror on a case of alleged COVID fraud in Minneapolis has been dismissed and all seven defendants arrested after a woman allegedly dropped off a bag full of cash in hopes of securing an acquittal.

Just before 9 p.m. on Sunday, a woman who appeared to be Somali, wearing a long dress and who spoke with an accent, rang the doorbell at the home of a 23-year-old woman impaneled on a jury for one of the largest COVID-funding fraud cases in the nation.

An inspection of the defendants' phones revealed that all 'have had access' to information that would have identified Juror 52.

The case involves seven defendants of East African descent accused of buying expensive property, jewelry, cars, and other luxury items with $41 million allocated to Feeding Our Future, an organization entrusted with providing food for underprivileged children. The case is part of a larger case involving 70 total defendants and $250 million in allegedly stolen funds. So far, 18 defendants have pled guilty, and $50 million has been recovered, the AP reported.

The Somali woman who arrived at the juror's home spoke with the juror's father-in-law and allegedly handed him a decorative bag filled with rolled up bills totaling $120,000. The woman even allegedly referred to the juror by her first name.

"This is for Juror 52," a note accompanying the bag allegedly said. "Tell her there will be another bag for her if she votes to acquit."

Juror 52 was not home at the time. When she returned, her father-in-law explained the situation, and the juror immediately called 911. The bag full of cash is now in the custody of the FBI.

"It is highly likely that someone with access to the juror’s personal information was conspiring with, at minimum, the woman who delivered the $120,000 bribe," read an affidavit.

In the courtroom on Monday morning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Thompson explained the incident of alleged jury tampering without the jury present. "This is outrageous behavior. This is the stuff that happens in mob movies," he said. "It really strikes at the heart of this case."

U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel was similarly concerned. She ordered the defendants' phones to be seized and the jury to be sequestered. "I don’t do it lightly, but I want to ensure a fair trial," she said.

Brasel also dismissed Juror 52 — described by the Sahan Journal as perhaps "the person of color on the jury" — and questioned the other jurors and alternates, asking them individually whether they had received similar attempted bribes. All replied in the negative.

Confident that the trial could proceed, Brasel then authorized the defense teams to make their closing arguments, which were followed by a rebuttal from the prosecution. The case was then given to the jury for deliberation.

Until Monday, the seven defendants — Abdiwahab Aftin, Abdiaziz Farah, Said Farah, Mohamed Jama Ismail, Abdimajid Nur, Hayat Nur, and Mukhtar Shariff — had been released on their own recognizance. But following the alleged bribe, Brasel overruled the objections of defense attorneys and had all the defendants rearrested. They will be kept in custody until the jury has reached a verdict.

An inspection of the defendants' phones revealed that all "have had access" to information that would have identified Juror 52, according to a search warrant affidavit.

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Cortney Weil

Cortney Weil

Sr. Editor, News

Cortney Weil is a senior editor for Blaze News.
@cortneyweil →