AG settles with school over misuse of funds by ex-leaders charged in Feeding Our Future scheme

A Burnsville charter school that was previously led by three people now charged in a massive federal child nutrition fraud scheme has agreed to reforms after an investigation by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.

Gateway STEM Academy will conduct an internal investigation and provide better training for staff after improper transactions were made by three former employees, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office says.

Those three former employees — Abdiaziz Shafii Farah, Gateway’s founder and executive director, Mahad Ibrahim and Mukhtar Mohamed Shariff — are now all charged in the $250 million Feeding Our Future scheme.

Ellison’s office says the trio steered nearly $300,000 to companies they owned or controlled while they worked for Gateway, the latter two as board members in 2021 and 2022. They were replaced after the Feeding Our Future indictments became public last year.

The attorney general’s office says its investigation found that previous directors or officers failed to sufficiently oversee Farah and have policies that would’ve caught and prevented the conflict of interests and payments.

“Nonprofit charter schools must use their resources to further their educational mission, not to benefit insiders,” Ellison said in a statement Friday. “The clear self-dealing by Gateway’s former executive director and some members of its board is extremely disappointing, as are the governance failures that allowed the misuse of funds to happen. I am encouraged that Gateway’s new leadership cooperated with our Office’s investigation, put controls in place to protect the school and its charitable mission going forward, and agreed to additional measures proposed by my office to help ensure a strong fresh start for the school.”