Burnsville charter school must make reforms after alleged misuse of funds by former officials

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A Burnsville charter school will have to make internal reforms after the school’s founder and two ex-board members, who have also been charged in the “Feeding Our Future” scandal, allegedly misused nearly $300,000 in funds.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Friday announced a settlement with Gateway STEM Academy after an investigation by his office found former school leaders steered school money to companies they owned or controlled.

The attorney general said that wouldn’t have happened if the previous leadership had more oversight of school founder and former executive director Abdiaziz Shafii Farah and had policies in place to prevent conflicts of interest. Farah co-owned one of the companies that got money from the school.

“Nonprofit charter schools must use their resources to further their educational mission, not to benefit insiders,” Ellison said in a news release announcing the settlement.

Farah stopped leading the school he helped found after his indictment for wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit those offenses in the “Feeding Our Future” scandal. He took a leave of absence after his involvement became public in January 2022, and the school hired a replacement, the attorney general’s office said.

Sixty people have been indicted in the “Feeding Our Future” scandal, though many of the cases are yet to be resolved, including Farah’s.

In the Gateway school case, investigators from the attorney general’s office found the school paid more than $173,000 to a company headed by Mahad Ibrahim and more than $117,000 to a company headed by Mukhtar Mohamed Shariff while they served on the school’s board in 2021 and 2022.

Ibrahim and Sharif also were charged in the same federal food funds case as Farah, the attorney general’s office said. None serve on the Gateway board anymore.

Under the settlement announced by the attorney general’s office on Friday, Gateway STEM Academy will have to investigate how the improper transactions occurred, provide “sufficient training” for school leadership on their duties under state and federal law, and not work with Farah, Ibrahim or Shariff.

Ellison said he was encouraged by the school’s new leadership’s cooperation with his office. Leaders with Gateway STEM Academy did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

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