Skip to main content
Press Release

Big Lake Woman Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud in $250 Million Feeding Our Future Fraud Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS – A Big Lake woman has pleaded guilty to her role in the $250 million fraud scheme that exploited a federally-funded child nutrition program during the COVID-19 pandemic, announced United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger. 

According to court documents, Sharon Denise Ross, 53, was the executive director of House of Refuge Twin Cities, a St. Paul-based non-profit which she enrolled in the Federal Child Nutrition Program under the sponsorship of Feeding Our Future and Sponsor A. Ross claimed that House of Refuge operated distribution sites at a dozen locations throughout the Twin Cities that served food by a vendor called Brava Café, a restaurant in Minneapolis run by Hanna Marakegn. Between September 2021 through February 2022, Ross falsely claimed to be serving thousands of children each day at her House of Refuge sites. In total, Ross fraudulently claimed to have served nearly 900,000 meals and received approximately $2.4 million in fraudulent Federal Child Nutrition Program funds. Ross distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to family members and used the rest of the money to fund her lifestyle, including to pay for vacations to Florida and Las Vegas, to purchase a suite at a Minnesota Timberwolves game, and to purchase a house in Willernie, Minnesota.

Ross, who is the 17th defendant to plead guilty to charges relating to the Feeding Our Future fraud scheme, appeared today in U.S. District Court before Judge Nancy E. Brasel and pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later time.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI, IRS – Criminal Investigations, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph H. Thompson, Chelsea A. Walcker, Matthew S. Ebert, and Harry M. Jacobs are prosecuting the case.

Updated January 10, 2024

Financial Fraud