More Somali daycare fraud in Minnesota, could abuse have been prevented?

Former Mumtaaz daycare center via Google Maps

Another Somali-run daycare center in Minnesota has been defrauding the state and fleecing taxpayers.  Mumtaaz Family Daycare Center in St. Paul overbilled the state by at least $16,800 during a 12-week period in 2014.  The fraud was discovered based on tips from former employees and it’s highly likely that the amount was much higher, since the dollar figure was accounted for only when the daycare center was placed under surveillance from Feb. 26-May 18 2014.

Said Jire Kalinle, 43, was the owner of Mumtaaz, and went to great lengths to conceal the operation with a special “DHS room” to throw off inspectors. (Referring to the Department of Health and Human Services which oversees daycare centers.) From the Ramsey County attorney’s office press release, the room was “fully equipped with the toys, books, and learning supplies (required by DHS), to be used by teachers and children only when DHS licensing staff was onsite for an inspection.”

Said Jire Kalinle in a 2011 mugshot
Said Jire Kalinle in a 2011 mugshot

How did a former taxi-cab driver and short-term halal grocery store operator, with long list of court cases, get licensed to operate a daycare center?  And how was the center allowed to still operate after the fraud was discovered?

The Department of Health and Human Services confirms that the state licensed the Mumtaaz childcare center on August 27, 2013 and it stopped operating on October 3, 2014.

The operator, Kalinle, was a taxi cab driver in St. Paul per city permit records, and was arrested for driving without proof on insurance in July 2011 per the Ramsey County jail bookings database.   Publicly-searchable court records show that Kalinle was brought to family court several times from 2009-2013 for failure to pay child support. On June 6, 2013, he was evicted for failure to pay rent at his previous business, Royale Grocery & Halal Meat.  He was also booked on charges of felony identity theft in August of 2014, two months before the daycare center stopped operating.

We asked DHS how Mr. Kalinle was allowed to get a license to operate a daycare center with his court history.  An official with the department explained via email, “DHS issues child care center licenses when the applicants meet requirements in state law. While we can’t provide specifics regarding individual background study studies, not all offenses are disqualifying and not all court involvement relates to a potentially disqualifying offense.  Minnesota Statutes, section 245C.15 provides the list of disqualifying offenses and acts as well as the period of disqualification. (For example, being a defendant in a child support matter or being evicted would not result in an individual being disqualified.)”

On February 18, 2014, before the surveillance started, the state issued fourteen citations to Mumtaaz for failure to comply with applicable laws and rules ranging from failure to properly supervise children to hazards accessible to children at the center.

Mumtaaz Daycare was previously fined $4,600 by the state in April of 2014 for failing to submit background studies for 24 staff persons. The DHS also found that “the name on the Minnesota Driver’s License does not match the name on the Social Security card” for two employees. Alpha News reported in August this pattern of deception whereby Somali-operated centers were recruiting parents to be employees, who then enroll their children in the center in order to take advantage of the state’s child care assistance program, which reimburses based on child head count.

In October of 2014, a “suspected maltreatment” report was filed with DHS which stated that a staff person allegedly hit a 10-year-old victim in a face with a book and that the victim “sustain a cut and bruise underneath his/her left eye” and also that a staff person “pinched” the top of the victim’s fingertips with fingernails as a form of punishment.  The incidents allegedly occurred on an “unknown date in April.”  The investigation concluded that “it was not determined that abuse occurred,” but that conclusion was based on the acknowledged fact that Mumtaaz “didn’t keep sufficient documentation regarding all staff person’s names who worked there.  Since neither the alleged victim, victim’s family member, nor the administrative staff  didn’t know the last name of the alleged perpetrator, and since “attempts to contact two staff persons with the same first name of the alleged perpetrator were unsuccessful,” the state determined that there wasn’t enough evidence to confirm the abuse.  By the time the report was made on October 30th, the center was closed for business.

Why did the state allow the center to remain in operation after the April 2014 citation about the lack of background studies for so many employees? Why did they remain open after surveillance was finished in May of 2014?  Questions remain.

According to WCCO’s report on the fraud findings, “the criminal complaint states that a former employee told investigators that Kalinle’s relatives bought the business from him and reopened it this year under a different name.  They also said that Kalinle is still a “silent” partner at the new business.”

According to the DHS, Hanano Childcare Inc, was issued a license on June 24, 2015 at the same address.  Alpha News asked about the allegation that Kalinle’s relatives were involved with the new center and was told by DHS, “We can confirm that a child care center is in operation at the address of the former center. The current license holder  also had to meet the requirements in law to be licensed.”

A DHS task force is in place to investigate daycare fraud.  Over $4 million in fraud from Somali-run daycare centers has been discovered so far.  State taxpayers currently fund $418 million in child care payments annually.