The case of Fozia Ali (3)

In this series I follow up on Jeff Baillon’s intensely reported FOX 9 story “Millions of dollars fly out of MSP in suitcases, but why?” In part 1 I noted the media backlash to Baillon’s story at the Pioneer Press, at MPR, and, of course, at the Star Tribune. The media, however, have not followed up on Baillon’s findings regarding rampant daycare fraud.

Part 1 in this series is here. In part 1 I noted the media backlash to Baillon’s story at the Pioneer Press, at MPR, and, of course, at the Star Tribune. Part 2 is here. In part 2 I highlighted undisputed facts supplemented by additional reporting of my own.

Baillon offered the case of Fozia Ali as illustrative of the rampant daycare fraud leading to cash leaving the Twin Cities for the Middle East and possible support of terrorist forces. On the last point, Baillon quoted FBI spokesman Craig Lisher. “We are aware that some of the funds went overseas, what she was cashing out, money from the business.” Asked if he had any idea of what it was going for he said, “I can’t say.” When pressed if he can’t say or doesn’t know he responded, “I can’t say.” It’s a powerful case supporting Baillon’s three theses. The media backlash has nevertheless left it untouched.

Ali’s is by far the most egregious case of known fraud committed by Somali daycare providers in the Child Care Assistance Program. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman handled the other cases and let the individuals off in exchange for guilty pleas including restitution from the provider entities. Ali’s case, however, was handled by the United States Attorney and resulted in a prison sentence for Ali.

Ali was charged by the United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota in a five-count indictment dated January 18, 2017. I have posted a copy of the indictment provided by the office here on Scribd. The United States Attorney issued a press release announcing the indictment.

Chris Serres reported the FBI raid on Ali’s daycare center in a Star Tribune story dated May 23, 2015. Stephen Montemayor reported the indictment in a Star Tribune story dated January 20, 2017.

What happened next? The trail goes cold. The United States Attorney issued no press release. The Star Tribune never caught up with the rest of the story. Baillon, however, noted Ali’s guilty plea and prison sentence.

I obtained copies of the plea agreement and judgment or sentencing document from the Office of the United States Attorney. I posted a copy of the plea agreement here. I posted the sentencing document here and embedded it at the bottom of this post.

The government agreed to dismiss four counts of the indictment (all alleging wire fraud) in exchange for a guilty plea on the fifth (aiding and abetting theft of public money), which overlapped the first four counts. The government had the case nailed. Ali was sentenced to two years in prison.

Restitution was a mandatory element of the plea agreement. At the time of the plea there was no agreement on the amount of restitution. The required amount of restitution was to be determined based on information to be provided by Ali. The amount was to equal the total loss due to Ali’s fraudulent billing practices over the period 18-month period December 2013-May 2015.

The sentencing document reflects the amount of restitution ordered by the court. It came to the amount of $1,449,105.67 (page 6). I find that to be astounding. Baillon to the contrary notwithstanding, the lack of interest in Ali’s case reflects poorly on the Minnesota media — as does the media’s performance in the aftermath of Baillon’s story.

FA Judgment by Scott Johnson on Scribd

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