A Mazda, a gift bag of $120,000 and a dismissed juror

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WASHINGTON — A woman drove up to a Minnesota home in a Mazda on Sunday night with a bag of cash totaling $120,000, ready to hand it to one of the 12 jurors in a multimillion-dollar charitable fraud case in the Minneapolis federal courthouse.

“This is for Juror 52,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Thompson quoted the woman saying, according to a story in the Sahan Journal. “Tell her there will be another bag for her if she votes to acquit.”

The juror was not home at the time, so the woman left the cash and the message with a relative, Thompson said in court, according to accounts from journalists in the courtroom. The U.S. attorney’s office said in an interview with The New York Times that the accounts were accurate and that more details would be forthcoming.

Prosecutors said the juror reported the apparent bribery attempt to local police.

That revelation roiled the trial of seven defendants accused of stealing $41 million from government programs meant to feed hungry children, through a nonprofit called Feeding Our Future, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prosecutors have accused them — and dozens of others — of stealing $250 million by claiming to have served nonexistent meals to nonexistent children.

So far, 18 people have pleaded guilty.

Earlier: Former St. Paul nonprofit leader pleads guilty in Feeding Our Future fraud case.

The current case is the first related to that scandal to come to trial. After six weeks, the trial is nearing its end. Defense attorneys are expected to make their final closing arguments this week. In court Monday, defense attorneys said they were troubled by the allegations, according to accounts from the courtroom.

In response to the revelation, U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel dismissed the juror, and quizzed the remaining jurors and alternates about whether they had been contacted in a similar way, according to an account from the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune. All said no, the newspaper reported.

Police in Spring Lake Park, Minnesota — where the bribe attempt took place — referred questions to the U.S. attorney’s office.

This article originally appeared in the New York Times.

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