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Day care operator pleads guilty to defrauding government

A Buffalo woman who defrauded the government of more than $130,000 faces a maximum of 10 years in prison when she is sentenced Nov. 1.

Halima Mohamed, 35, pleaded guilty Monday to theft of government funds before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Maura K. O’Donnell, the charge resulted from operations at Twinkle Stars Day Care Center, which Mohamed opened with her husband, Tariq Butt, in February 2015.

Between January and  September 2016, the couple submitted hundreds of fraudulent claims to Erie County seeking reimbursement for day care services that were purported to have been provided by Twinkle Stars to children eligible for funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Prosecutors said Mohamed and Butt both knew that the children listed on the claims did not actually attend Twinkle Stars on the dates and times that were claimed, making the day care ineligible for reimbursement. In total, the county paid Twinkle Stars $130,188 for day care services that were never rendered, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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