Bribery Attempt Shocks Minnesota COVID-19 Fraud Trial, Leading To Juror’s Dismissal

In a surprising turn of events, a juror in a federal trial about misused funds meant to feed hungry children during the COVID-19 pandemic was let go on Monday after being offered a $120,000 bribe. The 23-year-old juror, known as Juror 52, was not at home when an unknown woman left a bag filled with rolls of dollar bills at her house on Sunday night.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Joe Thompson told U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel that the woman told the juror’s father-in-law that the money was “for Juror 52” and “there will be another bag for her if she votes to acquit.” When the juror got home and found out what happened, she quickly called the police.

The trial is about seven people accused of using a nonprofit called Feeding Our Future in a fraudulent way to steal $41 million, which is part of a bigger case involving 70 people. According to the Associated Press, 18 people have already admitted guilt.

Because of the claims of jury tampering and bribery, all seven people on trial in the Feeding Our Future case were taken into custody by the authorities. Judge Brasel stressed the need to keep the community safe, saying, “The fact that there are only seven defendants and only seven people other than their attorneys that have the information to get to a juror and bribe the juror doesn’t relieve me of the responsibility to protect the community.”

On Monday, the U.S. Marshals handcuffed the defendants in court and took them away, while Judge Brasel asked the U.S. Marshals Office to provide more security in court and take away the defendants’ cell phones.