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4 Charged In $4 Million Gov't Benefits Scam

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) --A former daycare operator is in jail while police search for her husband as part of a multimillion-dollar fraud investigation.

Yasmin Ali of Fridley and her husband, Ahmed Mohammed, are charged with felonies along with two other men -- Joshua Miller of St. Paul and Jordan Smith of Cottage Grove.

Ali and Mohammed owned the Deqo Family Centers in St. Paul and Minneapolis, which provided daycare services to low-income families.

Minnesota offers child care payments for mothers who average 20 hours of work a week, with an income level that qualifies. The state pays the child care provider directly.

To get the payments, prosecutors say the Deqo Centers would recruit mothers, especially those with several children. If they didn't have jobs, they could go on the daycare's payroll, and they wouldn't have to work nearly as much as the daycare was telling the government.

Ramsey County attorney John Choi calls it a complex scheme.

"The defendants provided counties with pay stubs overstating hours that were worked by the mothers," Choi said. "In some cases, no wages were paid to the mothers, but pay stubs were created to make it appear as if wages had been paid."

That money then was going to the company operated by Ali, Mohammed and Miller.

In just one ten-month period, the group allegedly took in more than $3 million in fraudulent payments.

Choi wouldn't comment on what the group may have done with the millions, but he says officials are working to get the money back.

"I am a supporter of the safety net in our community," Choi said. "And it's very troubling and very disheartening to know that there are people in our community who would take advantage of those good intentions of our public."

Choi says the investigation of one crime led to two others.

Investigators also found evidence of a similar scheme involving personal care attendants, which Smith allegedly took part in.

They also allege the group committed tax evasion by not reporting all the profits they made through their illegal activities.

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