Juror in Massive Fraud Trial Reports Being Offered a Literal Sack of Cash to Acquit

REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus
REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus

A juror was dismissed from a Minnesota fraud trial on Monday after reporting that a stranger had dropped off a bag of $120,000 in cash at her home and promised her more if she would vote to acquit the seven defendants, who are charged with stealing more than $40 million from the federal government during the pandemic.

“This is completely beyond the pale,” a prosecutor said in court on Monday, according to the Sahan Journal. “This is outrageous behavior. This is stuff that happens in mob movies.”

The juror, a 23-year-old woman, was not home at the time of the apparent bribery attempt on Sunday night. Instead, her father-in-law met the stranger, who told him that the bag was “for Juror 52,” according to the prosecutor, U.S. Assistant Attorney Joe Thompson.

The stranger added, “‘Tell her there will be another bag for her if she votes to acquit,’” Thompson told the court.

The juror called the police when she arrived home and learned what had happened. The bag of cash was turned over to the FBI.

The seven defendants in the case are the first batch of more than 70 people charged in the alleged scam to go on trial. While pretending to help feed low-income children through a nonprofit called Feeding Our Future, prosecutors allege, the conspirators instead splurged on luxury cars, jewelry, and international properties. More than $250 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture funds are alleged to have been mishandled.

At least 18 other defendants had already pleaded guilty as of Monday, according to the Associated Press.

The 23-year-old juror was not in court on Monday, and U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel said she had been excused.

Given the attempted jury tampering, Thompson asked that the remaining jurors and their alternates be sequestered until the end of the trial. After interviewing the jurors individually to ensure no one else had been contacted about the case, Brasel said that she would move to sequester the jury.

“I don’t do it lightly,” the judge said, the AP reported. “But I want to ensure a fair trial.”

She also ordered the defendants to put their cell phones in airplane mode until the prosecution could get a search warrant to have them confiscated, according to the Minnesota Reformer.

But even the defendants’ lawyers seemed taken aback by the development. “It’s a troubling and upsetting accusation,” one said in court on Monday.

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