A Nigerian owner of a day care center in Kansas City, Mo., was arrested Wednesday as part of a nationwide sweep that targeted childcare center fraud schemes.
The arrest was part of a national law enforcement operation that included arrests and search warrants executed in Missouri and six other states. The operation was the result of separate, but related, federal investigations into Nigerian and Somalian childcare center fraud that resulted in a loss of more than $1 million to the government.
Hauwa Al-Hassan, 47, of Raymore, Mo., was charged with the theft of government property in an indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo., on June 29, 2016. That indictment was unseales and made public on Wednesday following Al-Hassan’s arrest and initial court appearance.
Al-Hassan, a Nigerian immigrant, is the owner and CEO of Guidance Child Care Center, LLC, a child day care center at 8101 E. Bannister Rd, Kansas City, Mo. Al-Hassab is also the vice president of Guidance Academy of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
The federal indictment alleges that, from June 2011 to June 2016, Al-Hassan engaged in a pattern of fraudulent billing to which she was not entitled under the federal Child Care and Development Fund grant program. Al-Hassan allegedly filed claims that reported more hours and children than actually attended her daycare center.
The Child Care and Development Fund provides daycare subsidies for low-income families where the parents are employed or engaged in job training. Providers, such as Guidance, contract with the Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and submit claims electronically.
Based on a review of childcare claims between 2011 and 2016, the indictment says, at least $100,000 has been fraudulently billed by Guidance in connection with this scheme.
The indictment also alleges that Al-Hassan is involved in a fraud scheme with international implications. Al-Hassan allegedly has traveled to Nigeria to teach others who plan to return to the United States how to run similar daycare fraud schemes.
Once a fraud scheme is successfully executed inn the United States, the indictment says, the money is either wired by traditional means or hawala (an Islamic informal system used to transfer currency from one individual to another individual who lives overseas), or hand carried from the United States back to the country where the immigrant was born. For example, the indictment says that on Dec. 20, 2015, $23,000 in cash was hand-carried out of the United States to Nigeria by an unnamed individual on a visa using Al-Hassan’s residential address, which is also the Guidance Childcare Center’s main office address.
According to the indictment, Al-Hassan signed a contract with the Missouri Department of Social Services on May 3, 2010, to operate Guidance Child Care Center as a licensed childcare center providing childcare services to low-income families. Since 2013, Guidance has been audited by the state on four occasions. Each audit, the indictment says, found many hours fraudulently billed for childcare services.
Auditors found, for example, that Guidance Child Care and another provider allegedly billed the state for the childcare of the same child, at overlapping times. Auditors also found a large discrepancy between the timesheets (attendance records initialed by the parents) submitted and the billings made to the state. Other billing discrepancies, such as billing the state for children who were not receiving childcare services, allegedly also occurred. On May 1, 2015, the Department of Social Services mailed Guidance Child Care Center a letter of non-compliance.
Investigators installed two pole cameras near Guidance from Feb. 11 to March 20, 2016. One camera focused on the front doors of Guidance; the second camera showed the parking lot and rear doors. All doors in and out were covered by a pole camera. Timesheets submitted with the billing were compared with children seen on the pole cameras being dropped off and picked up from Guidance during that time. There were significant discrepancies between the timesheets submitted and the pole camera footage.
The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require Al-Hassan to forfeit to the government any property obtained from the proceeds of the alleged fraud scheme, including approximately $100,000 received in connection with the scheme.
Dickinson cautioned that the charge contained in this indictment is simply an accusation, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charge must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Pansing Brown. It was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, the FBI, the Missouri Department of Social Services – Division of Legal Services Investigations, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department and the Raymore, Mo., Police Department.