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FBI arrests Sh3.5B scam suspect escaping to Nairobi

Ismail Mohamed who was arrested on the jetway is accused of defrauding the US government Sh3.5 billion and wiring some of the money to Nairobi.

File image of people boarding an airplane at dusk

A 49-year-old Mohamed Jama Ismail was in late April arrested while travelling to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

According to documents from the US Department of Justice, Ismail is being investigated for allegedly receiving at least $30 million (Sh3.5 billion) by defrauding the US Federal Child Nutrition Program by pretending to offer affordable meals to children.

He was intercepted after boarding an Amsterdam-bound flight with plans to travel to Nairobi, Kenya.

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Authorities accused him of fraudulently obtaining another passport after his original one was seized during a January 2022 raid at the suspect's home in Minnesota, US.

Ismail is said to have lied that his passport was lost and obtained a new one in March which he used to book his flight to Nairobi but was flagged by security officials.

It is not clear what the suspect’s trip to Nairobi was about though detectives have traced some of the proceeds of the $30 million (Sh3.5 billion) scam to Kenya.

According to court documents, Ismail is one of the targets of a federal investigation into the misappropriation of the US government’s Child Nutrition Program funds.

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During the investigation, law enforcement identified several companies that were receiving a suspiciously high amount of reimbursements under the Federal Child Nutrition Program.

It was alleged that Ismail and a partner owned and controlled some of the companies that he and other accomplices used to fraudulently obtain, launder, and misappropriate millions of dollars.

The probe showed that most of the funds were misappropriated and sent through shell companies, and some of the money was transferred to Kenya.

Bank records also show more than $700,000 (Sh81 million) in Federal Child Nutrition Program funds were wired from Empire Enterprises LLC (previously transferred from Empire Cuisine & Market) to Nairobi, Kenya in 2021,” read a document from the US Department of Justice.

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