In the Twin Cities, a local television station uncovers a far-reaching scandal: last year, more than $100 million in cash left the Twin Cities airport in carry-on luggage, bound for the Middle East and Africa:
This story begins at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where mysterious suitcases filled with cash have become a common carry-on.
On the morning of March 15, Fox 9 chased a tip about a man who was leaving the country. Sources said he took a carry-on bag through security that was packed with $1 million in cash. Travelers can do that, as long as they fill out the proper government forms.
Fox 9 learned that these cloak-and-dagger scenarios now happen almost weekly at MSP. The money is usually headed to the Middle East, Dubai and points beyond. Sources said last year alone, more than $100 million in cash left MSP in carry-on luggage.
Where does the money come from, and where is it going?
It was coming from Hawalas, businesses used to courier money to countries that have no official banking system.
Some immigrant communities rely on Hawalas to send funds to help impoverished relatives back home.
[Former Seattle police detective Glen] Kerns discovered some of the money was being funneled to a Hawala in the region of Somalia that is controlled by the al Shabaab terrorist group.
Great. But the real scandal is where the money came from in the first place–welfare fraud:
As Kerns dug deeper, he found that some of the individuals who were sending out tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of remittance payments happened to be on government assistance in this country.
How could they possibly come up with such big bucks to transfer back home?
“We had sources that told us, ‘It’s welfare fraud, it’s all about the daycare,’” said Kerns.
Five years ago the Fox 9 Investigators were first to report that daycare fraud was on the rise in Minnesota, exposing how some businesses were gaming the system to steal millions in government subsidies meant to help low-income families with their childcare expenses.
“It’s a great way to make some money,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said.
In order for the scheme to work, the daycare centers need to sign up low income families that qualify for child care assistance funding.
Surveillance videos from a case prosecuted by Hennepin County show parents checking their kids into a center, only to leave with them a few minutes later. Sometimes, no children would show up.
Either way, the center would bill the state for a full day of childcare.
Video from that same case shows a man handing out envelopes of what are believed to be kickback payments to parents who are in on the fraud.
Evidently welfare fraud in various forms is widespread in Minnesota’s Somali immigrant community. This is, I think, generally known, but the scale of fraud disclosed here is astonishing:
“We believe that there’s a scope of fraud out there that we really need to get our arms around and ensure that those dollars are going to kids that really need them,” Acting Commissioner for the Department of Human Services Chuck Johnson said.
He told the Fox 9 Investigators his agency has 10 daycares currently under active investigation for fraud.
Fox 9 has learned dozens more are considered suspicious.
Search warrants obtained by the Fox 9 Investigators show each one of the suspect centers has received several million dollars in childcare assistance funds.
According to public records and government sources, most are owned by Somali immigrants.
Sources in the Somali community told Fox 9 it is an open secret that starting a daycare center is a license to make money.
The fraud is so widespread they said, that people buy shares of daycare businesses to get a cut of the huge public subsidies that are pouring in.
Government insiders believe this scam is costing the state at least a hundred million dollars a year, half of all child care subsidies.
How dumb are we? Honestly, I think it is impossible to plumb the depths of our stupidity.