“Essentially, it’s like a shadow situation where there’s not really care being provided for the children, but the children are signed up for care as if they are,” giving the scammers all the paperwork they need to bill the state, acting Minnesota Department of Human Services Deputy Commissioner Chuck Johnson said. “And in some cases, the parents are paid a kickback to be part of that scheme.”
The investigation, which began in 2014, has led to 13 child care centers closing, six felony convictions and $4.6 million in court-ordered restitution.
“This is the latest outrageous example of what happens when politically correct politicians look the other way when it comes to criminal behavior,” former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is running for governor of Minnesota again in 2018, wrote in a tweet on Monday.
It’s not clear exactly how much of Minnesota taxpayer dollars have been wasted. Some of the first reports indicated it could be up to $100 million, but that figure is considered inaccurate by state authorities.
The $100-million figure, which would account for half of child-care assistance funding, is not “credible,” Johnson said. “From what we know about the scope of fraud within the program, we’re obviously concerned about it, but it’s not at that level.”
A Fox 9 report linked the fraud to funding Somali terrorists, but there isn’t any evidence of that. When that part of the article was debunked, progressive Democrat Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota said, “Financial stability for the Somali people, both here and in Somalia, is one of our strongest protections against the terroristic threat posed by Al-Shabaab … Fox 9 should issue a thorough correction and apology for its irresponsible reporting.”
The Fox 9 report isn’t entirely incorrect, though. The article reports Somali immigrants pay remittances to the Somali communities in person when they won’t or can’t pay electronically, and the Pioneer Press reported that this is legal.