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Gov. Tim Walz suggested there should be an investigation into a decision made by a district judge to restart payments from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to Feeding Our Future, which is now the subject of the largest alleged pandemic fraud case in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Justice this week charged 48 people in connection to the $250 million scheme to defraud the Federal Child Nutrition Program during the COVID-19 pandemic, including Feeding Our Future CEO Aimee Bock.

MDE stopped payments to Feeding our Future when suspicions about the nonprofit grew, but the organization sued, with Ramsey County Judge John Guthmann ruling that MDE lacked the authority to stop payments, and in June 2021 held the department in contempt of court for not processing more than 140 applications from Feeding Our Future.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Walz said the decision by the judge left him "speechless," calling the ruling "unbelievable."

"Obviously, we had to honor it but at that point I said, we have got to continue to push the federal government and the FBI to do the investigation," he added.

The FBI took the case on in April 2021, with Walz saying his office has not been able to comment on the case since then due to the active investigation.

Walz continued to say he "would hope" there's an investigation into the judge's decision, given the U.S. Attorney's Office of Minnesota has filed charges against four-dozen people accused of the massive defrauding of the COVID relief program.

Walz's comments have been criticized by his gubernatorial opponent this November, Scott Jensen, along with other Republicans who said MDE should have appealed the judge's ruling.

But in a statement, MDE said that the department was also facing "mounting legal fees" after the judge ruled in favor of Feeding our Future, and that continuing to fight the case could have tipped off the nonprofit that it was under federal investigation.

Spokesman Kevin Burns provided the following statement to Bring Me The News:

"At that stage in its pursuits to shut down [Feed our Future], MDE had already been held in contempt of court once, was facing mounting legal fees, and the court had made it clear that if we were to continue the legal fight to withhold payments, MDE would incur additional sanctions and legal penalties. Further, as partners in the federal investigation, there were concerns that ongoing litigation would result in the now-indicted fraudsters learning of the investigation that resulted in the execution of multiple search warrants and property seizures in January of 2022, and the issuance of six indictments and 48 arrests on Tuesday of this week."

Burns also reiterated: "MDE was held in contempt of court for TRYING TO SHUT THESE FOLKS DOWN."

The governor said the fraud scheme was "caught early," but it remains unclear specifically when his administration was aware of it. Bring Me The News reached out to the governor's office for more information Thursday afternoon.

House Republican Minority Leader Kurt Daudt called the governor's and the department of education's response to the issue "a failure" in a statement on Wednesday.

"It's amazing to me that we find folks in the political realm that are more angry that they can't blame us for everything rather than recognizing that we had criminals that we caught," Walz stated.

The suspects are accused of participating in a massive scheme to pocket federal aid intended to provide meals to needy children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal prosecutors allege Bock had a role in orchestrating the scheme and received kickbacks, while owners and operators of five restaurants accused of filing false claims for child nutrition funds are among those charged.

In a statement Wednesday, Christopher Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said the indictments describe "an egregious plot to steal public funds meant to care for children in need."

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