Minneapolis child care center raided in billing fraud investigation

The Chicago Avenue center was the subject of a recent search warrant.
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A south Minneapolis child care center was raided by state law enforcement authorities on Wednesday over allegations of fraud.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) told BMTN that it executed a search warrant at the Baraka Child Care Center on Chicago Avenue, amid accusations of financial misconduct "related to the center’s billing for the Child Care Assistance Program." 

It comes a month after a FOX 9 report that stated 10 daycare centers in Minnesota are under investigation for potential fraud.

Over the past four years, the DHS closed a dozen child care centers, recouped $4.6 million fraudulently obtained in child care assistance fraud and secured six convictions.

It follows instances in which daycare centers enroll low-income children and claim funding for them from the state, even though they are not really providing care for them.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are involved in the Baraka Child Care Center investigation.

The center has been operating since June 2011, according to its Facebook page. State records show that in the past three years, it has been issued three correction or fine orders, all for not getting the required background documentation for employees.

"DHS continues to aggressively pursue and investigate fraud in the Child Care Assistance Program," DHS Inspector General Carolyn Ham said.

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"Child care fraud is especially egregious because in addition to exploiting taxpayer money, it harms the families and children the program is intended to help.

"The Office of Inspector General, which DHS established in 2011 to increase our focus on fraud prevention and investigation, will continue to partner with other agencies, including law enforcement, in this investigation.

"We are also working to expand our fraud efforts, adding investigators and increasing our use of technology to detect and prevent fraud in state benefits."

The FOX 9 report raised the possibility that some of the money defrauded from child care assistance funds may be going to regions with known terror links, though Ham recently told a Senate panel that it has no specific evidence that this is happening, as the Pioneer Press reported.

BMTN has attempted to contact the Baraka Child Care Center, but has not had any response.

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