Minneapolis City Council member’s wife’s nonprofit reported feeding 2,500 children per day 

Neither Ilo Amba nor her nonprofit has been charged with a crime 

By: - October 11, 2022 9:24 am

The wife of Minneapolis City Council Member Jamal Osman, Ilo Amba, incorporated a nonprofit that reported feeding 2,500 children per day under a federal program that’s been rocked by alleged fraud in Minnesota. Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer

The wife of Minneapolis City Council Member Jamal Osman incorporated a nonprofit that reported feeding 2,500 children per day under a federal program that’s been rocked by alleged fraud in Minnesota.

Ilo Amba incorporated a nonprofit called Urban Advantage Services in November 2020, registering its office at the south Minneapolis home she shares with Osman. The registered address was changed to a downtown office building suite on Dec. 21, 2021 — about a month before the FBI began raiding homes as part of its wide-ranging investigation that has already netted 49 indictments, with more expected. 

Reached by phone, Osman, who was elected in 2020, said he didn’t have time to talk and hung up. Amba did not return a phone call seeking comment.

An entity called Urban Advantage Center is listed as a food distribution site in the federal child nutrition program, with the same downtown Minneapolis address as Amba’s nonprofit, Urban Advantage Services.

Urban Advantage Center reported feeding 2,500 kids daily from Feb. 1, 2021 through September 2021 under the sponsorship of Partners in Nutrition, according to state records. Partners in Nutrition is a St. Paul nonprofit that state regulators shut down after some of the sites it sponsored were charged in connection with the $250 million fraud. The state stopped payments in January, after FBI raids began, saying the nonprofit was “directly responsible for distributing more than $57.7 million in misappropriated funds.”

Partners in Nutrition sued, asking a federal judge to reverse the state’s decision, but last week, the judge refused to reinstate the nonprofit. The lawsuit documents show Amba applied for two more distribution sites, which were listed among 213 sites denied by the state this year.

Neither Osman nor Amba has been charged with a crime. 

Osman took his name off another nonprofit called Stigma-Free International and turned it over to others who went on to bilk the feds of over $10 million for sites throughout Minnesota, prosecutors say.

Osman, Amba and two others incorporated Stigma-Free in August 2019, but then on Oct. 15, 2020, new paperwork was filed with the state showing new incorporators, minus Osman and Amba. Amba incorporated Urban Advantage Center about a month later. Earlier this year, Osman told the Sahan Journal he did mental health outreach before leaving Stigma-Free in June 2020 and never worked with food programs.

Two days after Osman’s name was taken off Stigma-Free’s incorporation documents, Amy Bock, executive director of nonprofit Feeding Our Future, and Ahmed Artan, the new president of Stigma-Free, began setting up food distribution sites under Feeding Our Future’s sponsorship.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said during a Sept. 20 press conference that they are merely the first tranche of indictments.

The feds say Feeding Our Future was at the center of an effort to defraud the government of 125 million meals that were supposed to go to needy children. Bock founded Partners in Nutrition before leaving to start Feeding Our Future. She has pleaded innocent.

Prosecutors say Feeding our Future employees recruited people to open sites statewide who then falsely claimed to serve meals to thousands of children per day within days to weeks of setup.

The investigation continues to reverberate out to a widening set of politicos. A former senior policy aide to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and the former chair of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority — appointed by Frey and the City Council — have both been charged

And a former key aide to Bernie Sanders’ Iowa presidential campaign went on to work as a consultant for Feeding Our Future. He was also deputy director of a nonprofit that ran six food distribution sites — sponsored by Feeding Our Future — which reported serving 4,000 children per day. He and the nonprofit have not been charged with any crimes. 

Feeding Our Future exchanged the lucrative sponsorships for more than $18 million in fees and got bribes and kickbacks, disguised as consulting fees paid to shell companies, prosecutors say.

Urban Advantage Services’ address is in a brick building in downtown Minneapolis. 

On an office directory, Stigma-Free International, Inc. is listed as the tenant across the hallway from where Urban Advantage used to be. 

The office manager for a law firm one floor up, Yang Moua, said she never saw children come to the building for food, although she sometimes saw people packaging and loading trucks with food.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.

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