On May 14 our local Fox affiliate (Fox 9) broadcast Jeff Baillon’s striking report “Millions of dollars in suitcases fly out of MSP, but why?” The report drew a connection among “rampant fraud in a massive state program” (i.e., Minnesota’s $250 million a year Child Care Assistance Program funding daycare providers), the locus of this fraud in Minnesota’s Somali community and cash flown overseas in suitcases out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport possibly that may fund the Al Qaeda affiliate al Shabab in Somalia.
The story reverberated in our legislature at the end of the legislative session. Former Department of Human Services investigator Scott Stillman had been one of Baillon’s key sources. Stillman testified in a hastily called state senate hearing. Kim Crockett of the Center of the American Experiment covered the hearing featuring Stillman’s testimony here.
The principal reverberation created by the Fox 9 story, however, is a media backlash. Baillon’s story had gaps in its reporting (Dave Orrick here at the Pioneer Press). Stillman is an unreliable source (Matt Sepic here at Minnesota Public Radio). My favorite story in the backlash featured the ordeal of the Somali daycare providers (brought to us by the Star Tribune, of course). Minnesota Democrats attacked the story with ludicrous comments contributed by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison and intergalactic state legislative superstar and congressional wannabe Ilhan Omar (Lauran Yuen here at MPR.)
It has been my purpose in this series to follow up on Baillon’s story with additional research and reporting. Here is part 1; here is part 2; here is part 3. My own City Journal column on Baillon’s story is “Mogadishu, Minnesota.”
Fozia Ali served as the centerpiece of Baillon’s story. She stole $1.5 million from the Child Care Assistance Program over an 18-month period. The media can’t quibble with the facts of the Fozia Ali case. Her guilty plea in federal court earlier this year told its own story, although the media somehow overlooked it.
Reviewing the facts of Ali’s case I called and wrote the Minnesota Department of Human Services to ask one question: “CCAP seems to be a program that is relatively easy to defraud. How else to account for a case like Fozia Ali’s and the multiplicity of similar cases?”
DHS responded: “Any amount of fraud is too much. DHS created the Office of the Inspector General in 2011 to address fraud, waste and abuse in public programs. DHS has added resources and made recommendations to the Legislature to increase our ability to ensure public funds are used for those who need them.” DHS also instructed me not to attribute this nonresponse response to the person who provided it.
I conclude that Baillon has reported a helluva story. The story bears on questions of immigration, welfare, welfare fraud and terrorism. Prominent Minnesota Democrats and their media adjunct have embarrassed themselves with their response, not that anybody in particular notices.