AUBURN — A Lewiston Realtor testified Wednesday that he sold two buildings to a couple who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash for them. Prosecutors said the couple, Roda Abdi, 45, and Ali-Nassir Ahmed, 53, both of Lewiston, was bilking the federal government out of tens of thousands of dollars in housing benefits at the time.

It was the second day of the couple’s bench trial in Androscoggin County Superior Court. Each is charged with one count of felony theft, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors said the couple continued to live in subsidized housing while owning a business and building real estate with cash.

Kevin Fletcher said he rented a building at 199 Bartlett St. in Lewiston to Abdi and Ahmed, where they operated A & R Halal Market.

The couple negotiated a price to buy the building, which also housed three apartments.

Fletcher said Abdi was a “very shrewd business person” who was “savvy” during negotiations.

The couple, who introduced themselves as husband and wife, bought the property, which included the adjacent 215 Bartlett St., using a limited liability corporation they had created, Fletcher said.


The couple paid $165,000 for the property in 2005, after giving Fletcher a $10,000 cash down payment. Abdi indicated to Fletcher that she also owned a property in Dubai, a city in the United Arab Emirates.

The couple later approached Fletcher about buying a residential property where they would live. They negotiated the sale of 210 Ash St. in Lewiston, a three-family building that Fletcher was in the process of renovating.

He said he sold that property to another limited liability corporation, named for the building’s address, for $206,000, with a down payment of $60,000 and 18 monthly payments of $8,000 plus a final payment of $2,000 — all in cash. No interest was paid for the transaction for religious reasons, a consideration Fletcher said he factored into the sale price.

Fletcher said the sales were transacted in English with no interpreters. He said the couple “spoke perfect English.”

Throughout the trial, translators have sat in the courtroom, providing Abdi and Ahmed with Somali translations of the courtroom proceedings through wireless headsets.

Fletcher said Ahmed’s name didn’t appear on the paperwork for the sale of that building.


Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin called as witnesses several bureaucrats who oversaw A & R Halal Market’s applications to accept Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits, formerly known as food stamps and Maine Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program benefits.

In the store’s 2002 application to participate in the SNAP program, it reported gross income of more than $100,000 a year, program specialist Deborah Crosby testified.

Abdi is also charged with attempted theft by deception in connection with the WIC program.

Defense lawyers for Abdi and Ahmed pointed out repeated errors in paperwork collected by property managers at 149 Bartlett St., where the couple lived from 2002 to 2008 while receiving federal subsidies through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Prosecutors claim the couple misreported their income and assets on disclosure forms.

But some of the those forms bore no signatures, only one signature or were erroneously dated, according to Bruce Merrill, Abdi’s attorney and Peter Rodway, attorney for Ahmed.


The lawyers also noted that asset disclosure forms asked only which assets the tenants had recently disposed of, not which they continued to own.

Both defense attorneys also objected to many documents presented by prosecutors, saying they weren’t original business records, throwing the authenticity of their figures into doubt.

The trial is expected to continue through Thursday.

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