ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Leaders in Minnesota's Somali business community are responding to questions about suitcases of cash leaving on flights out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The community members gathered Friday morning to call out Minnesota politicians for bills that could impact how Somali immigrants send money to their families abroad.
This all stems from Fox 9’s report of massive fraud in the state's daycare subsidy program for low-income families. Multiple government sources believe as much as a $100 million of taxpayer money is being ripped off. They have tracked some of the money going overseas.
Sources told Fox 9 suitcases stuffed with as much as a $1 million in cash are leaving on flights from MSP on a regular basis. It's all legal, as long as the courier fills out government forms. Immigrant communities use these types of money transfers in order to help support relatives in countries with no official banking system.
What got the attention of state and federal investigators was the increasing volume of cash leaving MSP: $14 million in 2015, $84 million in 2016, and more than $100 million last year. They believe some of that increase is coming from rampant fraud in the state's childcare assistance program. Ten, mostly Somali-owned daycares, are currently under investigation. But some community leaders say there's another reason for the increase in carry-on cash.
"The fact is the Muslim community in Minnesota is growing in wealth, they're growing in size, and that's an easy way to explain that story," said Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of CAIR-Minnesota.
According to multiple government sources, some of the money transfers are going to parts of the Middle East where terrorist groups are active. These sources believe as the money passes through, some is being skimmed off by those organizations. The owner of a Minnesota money transfer business acknowledges this method of sending funds can be risky.
"We don't want them,” said Abdiaziz Sugule of the Somali American Money Services Association. “It’s dangerous for us, it’s risky, but we don't have other solution to do this."
After 9/11, rules changed making it harder to wire money to places like Somalia. Local Somali leaders say they want to work with lawmakers to find a better solution than carry-on cash, but right now, it’s one of their only options.