The case of Fozia Ali (1)

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., funding of daycare in Minnesota’s Somali community), cash flown overseas in suitcases out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to Somalia and possible funding of the the al Shabab terrorist group in Somalia by such cash.

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).

Has the Star Tribune or any other media outlet followed up on Baillon’s story to explore the underlying facts? It’s an important story. I wrote about it in the City Journal column “Mogadishu, Minnesota.” Last week I made the round among law enforcement sources and the state agencies. Based on my survey, I think the media are averting their eyes from the substance of Baillon’s story. That’s the way it goes in Minnesota.

Baillon’s story cited the illustrative case of Fozia Ali, a Minneapolis daycare provider who pleaded guilty in federal court to defrauding the daycare program and was sentenced to prison earlier this year. As I sought to follow up on Baillon’s reporting, I was struck by how little information had been reported about Ali’s case (to take just one element of Baillon’s story), a case which is a matter of public record. I can’t even find a Star Tribune story reporting Ali’s plea and sentencing. This is the first in a series of brief posts on the Minnesota daycare fraud story that will conclude with a look at Ali’s case.

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