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Feeding Our Future defendant cannot travel to Saudi Arabia, judge rules

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A federal judge on Friday denied a request by a defendant in the Feeding Our Future meals fraud case to travel outside Minnesota.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony Leung rejected Hamdi Hussein Omar’s request to travel to Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Prosecutors and probation officers opposed her trip from Jan. 24 to Feb. 13, citing, among other reasons, that the U.S. has no extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia. In his denial, Leung said no condition could “address the reappearance of defendant with overseas travel in the circumstances of this case.”

Omar’s attorney argued in her request that she has complied with conditions of her pre-trial release. Omar, who was listed as a 26-year-old from St. Paul when she was charged in September 2022, ran a food site near St. Cloud that prosecutors allege received more than $1 million in federal reimbursements for serving more than 500,000 meals.

According to charges, she and her co-conspirators submitted fraudulent invoices and fake attendance rosters for the site, which was sponsored by the St. Anthony nonprofit Feeding Our Future. Prosecutors say the food site claimed to have served 2,000 low-income children in Waite Park at an after-school program that didn’t exist.

In all, 60 people have been charged in the sprawling case. Of the 12 who have asked for permission to travel outside Minnesota, three have been denied.

One defendant, who pleaded guilty, was approved to travel to Saudi Arabia before her sentencing. Attorneys for other defendants have argued that travel requests aren’t unreasonable given that defendants are waiting for sentencing hearings and trials more than a year after charges were filed.

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