Care center raided by FBI accused of billing state for non-existent children

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The child care center in downtown Minneapolis that was raided by FBI has been accused of defrauding a state program for low-income families.

FBI and Minnesota Department for Human Services searched the Salama Child Care Center at 1411 Nicollet Ave. on Wednesday, May 13, which was followed by action to revoke the child care license of its owner for a series of alleged safety violations.

But a search warrant request from the FBI has found that the investigation into the center goes deeper than license violations.

According to the Star Tribune, the FBI conducted 16 months of surveillance of the center, and now accuse it of billing Minnesota's state-funded child assistance program for more children than were using the center.

The newspaper notes that on a single day in January 2014, the FBI says Salama billed the state for 132 children, even though only 24 were observed entering the building – while on at least two other occasions Salama billed the state for services when the center was closed.

KSTP reports that though Salama has been approved to care for a maximum of 60 children at a time, investigators found that around 229 were enrolled in the state's Child Care Assistance Program in March of this year.

The TV station notes that the FBI and DHS are investigating the center for suspected wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and theft of public money, though no charges have yet been brought against those running the center.

FOX 9 reports that the Salama Child Care Center in St. Cloud had its license revoked in June 2014 and was closed "due to serious and chronic violations," which included an instance where a 4-year-old left the center unattended.

The Minnesota Child Care Assistance Program provides subsidies for families on low incomes to help them pay the cost of care for children aged 12 or younger, or those aged under 14 with special needs.

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