Lewiston couple plead not guilty to welfare fraud

AUBURN — A Lewiston couple appeared in court Thursday to deny charges of welfare fraud two and a half years after federal agents raided the wife's market on Bartlett Street.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

An agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement carries boxes of evidence out of the A&R Halal Market on Bartlett Street in Lewiston after a federal raid in 2010. (file.)

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Lewiston police Detective Steven MacCallum, right, and an unidentified man leave the A&R Halal Market on Bartlett Street in Lewiston with a computer and printer Friday Feburary 26, 2010. (file.)

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

A delivery man is turned away by Lewiston police Detective Steven MacCallum at the A&R Halal Market on Bartlett Street in Lewiston on Friday, Feburary 26, 2010. The man was asked what he was delivering. Beef, chicken and goat meat was in the boxes. (file.)

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement put boxes of evidence into a car in front of the A&R Halal Market on Bartlett Street in Lewiston on Friday, Feburary 26, 2010. (file.)

Roda O. Abdi, 44, and her husband, Ali-Nassir H. Ahmed, 52, of 208 Ash St. each pleaded not guilty to a charge of felony theft, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, in connection with taking federal housing assistance money.

Abdi also was indicted on a misdemeanor charge of attempted theft in connection with trying to redeem federal vouchers earmarked for items needed by new mothers and their children. That charge is punishable by up to 364 days in jail.

Their morning arraignment was aided by an interpreter who translated for the couple from English to Somali and to the judge from Somali to English.

The Androscoggin County grand jury indictments handed up last week had been impounded by the court after prosecutors expressed fears the couple might flee.

They were told Thursday to surrender their passports and not to leave the state, as conditions of their release.

They posted $50,000 surety against the apartment building in which they live. The judge also offered the option of $25,000 cash bail.

More than a dozen members of the Somali community attended the courtroom hearings Thursday.

Investigators say the couple applied for U.S. Housing and Urban Development rental assistance for an apartment they rented at 149 Bartlett St., but failed to disclose their real estate holdings and income. The apartment building in which they live is owned by Abdi through a limited liability corporation called 210 Ash St. LLC, Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said. Abdi also owns a building at 199 Bartlett St. that houses her market, A&R Halal Market, as well as apartments, called 199-214 Bartlett St. LLC.

The couple received roughly $18,000 in rental assistance at their apartment at 149 Bartlett St. over two years beginning in 2006, Robbin said. The total amount they received was roughly $58,000, but, due to the statute of limitations, they can only be prosecuted for the assistance they received during the years 2006-08, Robbin said.

Investigators said Abdi was seeking to fraudulently redeem copies of customers' vouchers from the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program for an amount more than $1,000 and less than $2,000, Robbin said. Those vouchers are available for supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age 5 who are found to be at nutritional risk, according to a government website. Abdi was attempting to redeem copies of the vouchers, claiming the bank had lost the originals, Robbin said.

Ahmed was arrested on a warrant earlier this week and jailed until his Thursday court appearance. A warrant for Abdi's arrest was recalled Thursday after she appeared at Androscoggin County Superior Court.

Federal agents had raided Abdi's halal in February 2010, apparently serving her with a search warrant. Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Treasury converged on the store mid-morning and drove off mid-afternoon after packing their vehicles with about eight boxes of evidence.

Abdi was referenced in Sun Journal stories as the owner of the market, dating back to 2003. She told reporters at that time that she imported goat meat from as far away as Philadelphia because no Maine farmer slaughtered goats according to Muslim law.

In a Mother Jones magazine story, Abdi said she also offered henna to decorate women's hands as well as all of the ingredients for a variety of Somali dishes.

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

Roda Abdi

Roda Abdi

Ali-Nassir H. Ahmed

Ali-Nassir H. Ahmed

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

Advertisement

Comments

Richard Begin's picture

Fraud

Well I suspect the Lilly White Gloves have been removed on these two Accused> Again who could imagine the Sun Jouranl would grow a Pair and print this kind of a Story.?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I don't know if these people

I don't know if these people have become naturalized citizens or not, (my guess is not) but anyone who's here 9 years and still needs an interpreter is obviously not here to assimilate within the American culture.
Considering the kind of trouble they're in, jail 'em and when they get out, DEPORT, DEPORT, DEPORT.

Mike Lachance's picture

I've been asking myself for quite some time...

I've been asking myself for quite some time "where does all the start up money come from" for the 953 (give or take) "ethnic" markets around the downtown area?

Maybe this is just an "isolated case".....

Having started a business in Lewiston I know what it takes.... money and time.

The proprietors definately had the time.

Sandra Coulombe's picture

So in 2006 these two had been

So in 2006 these two had been in the US long enough to own multiple properties yet in 2012 they still need an interpreter? Seriously if you are going to come to a new country expect to have to learn the prominent language!
They obviously do not wish to become Americans or they would have learned the language by now. There are free classes for anyone who's not a native English speaker so there is no reason for them not to learn the language. We need to stop providing translators after they have been here 5 years it's an unjustified expense on the tax payers!
Instead of putting these fine upstanding immigrants in prison for the tax payers to continue supporting put them on a boat back to their own little hell hole of a country.
I certainly hope the state has confiscated their property holding and any other financial holdings. If they were busted for selling drugs the property would be forfeited to the state. Defrauding the government, stealing from the tax payers, should cause loss of even more property and financial holding than selling drugs!

John Frecker's picture

Ripping off the system

I find it rather amazing that they can't speak English without the assistance of an interpreter, but they can figure out how to rip off several benefits programs. Wonder who translated for them while they committed their fraud? Just more evidence that there's very little oversight in the programs that dispense tax dollars.

The article doesn't say what their immigration status is. If they've become citizens, it'll be impossible to get rid of them, unless it can be proven that they committed fraud on the citizenship applications. If they're still aliens, they should be deported ASAP if they're convicted. They've probably gotten enough of their "ill-gotten gains" squirrelled away so that they can live quite nicely in Somalia.

Wilma Turcotte's picture

Fraud

Am sure there is alot of this going on and high time someone looked into it. Suppose now some idiot lawyer is gonna call this racial profiling and drag this on and on so they don't look into the other cases that are probably doing the same thing. Think they more deserve to be sent back to their own country then the guy that was trying to be good citizen and was earning his own way albeit didn't go through the legal process correctly. To lock these people up(which I will be surprised to see happen) while we support their never ending dependents does not seem like a good deal for us. Once they do get out of jail they will continue their illegal ways saying they can't get work legitimately and on and on it goes. With aid to our own citizens getting less and less and in some cases about time then we can't say we will help non-citizens cause they fell on hard times. By their own hand I might add. Guess they already know the rule that you live with a man but don't marry then you can have dozens of kids that we will support cause you are a "single mother"

RONALD RIML's picture

So where is your Juris Doctorate degree from, Wilma??

You are anticipating the actions now of "idiot lawyers" after you overturned here the Supreme Court's decision several days ago regarding the Affordable Health Care Act. How do you differentiate between 'idiot' and 'non-idiot' lawyers? How much time have you spent in court observing the legal system?

- Have your opinions on human behavior been shaped by your observation of the milk of human kindness, or perhaps a less considerate set of circumstances which you may have found yourself??? Were you the subject of such 'judging' during your life? How did it shape you??

Do you plan continuing your education to expand into further fields such as psychology and counseling?? Keep us posted on how it works out for you......

KATHRYN PENDLETON's picture

This

seems to be a pretty sophisticated operation,I really wonder how many more of our r esources are being swindled in this way. I mean, should'nt this have been caught much earlier on? Connect the dots people.

DANNY FITZSIMMONS's picture

Treat them the same

As long as the court treats them the same as if they were white scam artists then the system works, which means they should be imprisioned for no less than 5 years each. their actions were premeditated and calculated we must show that this is not acceptible by anyone, I personaly would wish they spend ten years however to serve no jail time is a miscarriage of justice or a brought justice which we see more and more today, justice is blind but it sure has a nose for greenbacks!

Richard Begin's picture

Refugee fraud

This development certainly come as no Surprise to me. I am actually Surprised that this Article appeared in this papaer?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Great point, Richard.

Great point, Richard.

Mike Lachance's picture

Is the SJ Growing a pair?

100% surprising to see this story here, (even if it was buried in a small box on the main page)

Advertisement

Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...