AUBURN — The trial of a Lewiston couple charged with bilking the federal government out of thousands of dollars in housing money is expected to wrap up outside the courtroom.

Defense lawyers for Roda Abdi, 45, and Ali-Nassir Ahmed, 53, notified the trial judge in Androscoggin County Superior Court in mid-December that they didn’t intend to call any witnesses or introduce any evidence.

Active-Retired Justice Robert Clifford had given defense attorneys and prosecutors until Jan. 3 to file their closing arguments in writing. During a Dec. 20 telephone conference, attorneys for Abdi and Ahmed said they were seeking a transcript of the three-day trial to help prepare their final statements. A court reporter said she expected to have a completed transcript by Thursday.

Clifford gave them, as well as prosecutors, an extension to Feb. 3 to submit all trial-related documents.

It was unclear whether Clifford’s verdict in the bench trial will be held in open court or in written form only.

Typically, in the event of a guilty verdict in particular, bail and pre-sentencing investigations are discussed in open court. A clerk said that decision hadn’t been made as of Thursday.


Abdi and Ahmed each is charged with one count of theft by deception. The felony charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Abdi is charged additionally with attempted theft by deception, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail.

All of the charges stem from a 2010 raid by federal agents on A & R Halal Market at 199 Bartlett St. in Lewiston. Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement converged on the store with a warrant on a tip about possible violations of the Maine Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program benefits.

Prosecutors said the couple had falsely taken nearly $60,000 in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development subsidies over six years for which they hadn’t been eligible. Most of that period predates the indictment, which spans 2006 through 2008, during which the couple is accused of stealing roughly $20,000.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said in her opening statement that Abdi and her husband, Ahmed, lived in a federally subsidized apartment “while they owned and operated a profitable businesses in Lewiston,” all the time buying buildings with cash.

The couple started defrauding the government in 2002, when they rented an apartment at 149 Bartlett St., Robbin said.

Two months before moving into the apartment, Abdi, owner of the 199 Bartlett St. store, had applied to the food stamp service to allow customers to use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits at her store, Robbin said.


Abdi pegged her store’s gross annual receipts at $119,000, Robbin said. Abdi failed to disclose her store’s income in her application to the management company that rented the Section 8 apartments for the building’s owner and certified the renters’ eligibility for federal subsidies, Robbin said. The couple claimed they had no income, according to Robbin.

In addition to selling items for SNAP benefits, she also was authorized to take WIC benefits, Robbin said.

In 2004, the couple formed limited liability corporations, one for the store and one for the building that housed the store and apartments. The couple bought the store that year, paying the owner $10,000 in cash, Robbin said. By the end of 2005, they had paid the remainder of the $165,000 in cash, she said.

Robbin called witnesses who confirmed the couple’s declarations that they qualified for the housing subsidies along with witnesses who said the couple paid tens of thousands of dollars in cash for their buildings. Another witness said they had earned about $400,000 at their store over a five-year period during which the federal government was providing them with a housing subsidy.

Prosecutors rested their case after three days.

Defense lawyers poked holes in the state’s case, pointing out missing signatures by the defendants on government documents as well as erroneous dates. During cross-examination, witnesses sometimes couldn’t decipher terms or figures in documents they oversaw.

Defense attorneys also noted that HUD eligibility guidelines allowed subsidy recipients to have incomes in the tens of thousands of dollars.

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