Years after Judicial Watch exposed the Obama administration’s special behind-the-scenes tours for Somali Muslims at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, millions of dollars in cash are being smuggled weekly from the facility to the Middle East.
Some of the money is being funneled to a region of Somalia that is controlled by the Al Shabaab terrorist group, according to a disturbing months-long investigation conducted by a national media outlet. “These cloak-and-dagger scenarios now happen almost weekly at MSP,” the probe found. “The money is usually headed to the Middle East, Dubai and points beyond. Sources said last year alone, more than $100 million in cash left MSP in carry-on luggage.” The investigation is based on public records and nearly a dozen government sources with direct knowledge of the scheme.
A national expert on the illicit cash transfers helped track where the money is going once it leaves Minneapolis stuffed in suitcases. His name is Glen Kerns, a former Seattle police detective who spent 15 years on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) joint terrorist task force. Kerns discovered that some of the cash is being funneled to a part of Somalia dominated by Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda affiliate that has taken over many rural southern and central areas of the African nation.
Kerns says some of the individuals sending large amounts of cash abroad receive taxpayer-funded government assistance in the United States. Sources interviewed for the story say it’s “welfare fraud,” mostly involving government-subsidized daycare. A separate investigation conducted by the same media outlet five years ago, uncovered huge daycare fraud in Minnesota that exposed how businesses were gaming the system to steal millions in government subsidies meant to help poor families with childcare expenses.
In one recent federal case the feds raided a south Minneapolis daycare center operated by a woman named Fozia Ali, who billed the government for more than a million dollars in bogus childcare services. An FBI agent confirmed that Ali was collecting a significant amount of money for a much larger number of children than were actually attending the center and that some of the funds went overseas.
Investigators subsequently discovered in records that Ali took a two-month trip from Minnesota to Dubai and Kenya, where she sometimes stayed at fancy hotels that cost $800 a night. “She used an app on her phone to bill the state of Minnesota for childcare services while she was out of the country,” the news story reveals. The fraud is so widespread, according to Department of Human Services officials, that people buy shares in daycare businesses to get a cut of the huge public subsidies that are pouring in. In the Somali community it is an open secret that starting a daycare center is a license to make money, sources told reporters.
Years ago, Minnesota officials began cracking down on daycare fraud and tracking the money. “The state would pay a daycare’s bill and within hours of the money showing up in the business’s bank account, funds were being wired to the United Arab Emirates,” the investigative report states. “Those wire transfers stopped after a few centers were busted.” Apparently, that’s when the fraudsters started using suitcases to transport the cash out of the airport. In 2015, investigators documented $14 million in carry on cash out of MSP. By 2016, it had mushroomed to $84 million. Last year it grew to an eye-popping $100 million. The FBI joint terrorism task force expert quoted in the piece, says the money is “absolutely” funding terrorism. The fact that a chunk of it is coming from defrauded American taxpayers only makes it worse.
The money-laundering hub is also enraging, considering its history. Back in 2016 Judicial Watch uncovered records involving a secret Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program that offered Somali Muslims “community engagement tours,” including security briefings in secured areas at three major U.S. airports. Los Angeles and Columbus, Ohio were the other two.
In Minneapolis the tours came about after Somali Muslims complained to Obama Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson about feeling harassed and profiled. The special security tours at MSP were not offered to any other group and included roundtable meetings with local Somali leaders to obtain feedback for “modifications to practices that would allow for operations to be more culturally sensitive.” On at least two occasions federal authorities granted the unprecedented excursions of the facility’s sterile and secure areas, according to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) records obtained by Judicial Watch.
The DHS agency that conducted the expeditions, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), provided the Muslim participants with “an in-depth, on-site tour and discussion of CBP’s airport, including both inbound and outbound passenger processing,” the TSA files state.