Lewiston, ME: Somali teen released to ‘residential facility’ over District Attorney objections

Back in April and May there were several arson fires in Lewiston, ME.   A Somali boy is charged in one of those fires (see our earlier posts, here and here), now that boy is being released from a juvenile detention facility, but the District Attorney, earlier this week objected to the judge’s decision citing the boys prior criminal record.

One of Lewiston’s several arson fires that occurred within a week. Photo Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Here is the latest from earlier this week from the Lewiston Sun Journal (Hat tip: Michael):

LEWISTON — A judge on Wednesday ordered the release of a 13-year-old boy charged with four counts of arson in a May 3 fire that burned four downtown apartment buildings and left nearly 100 people homeless.

Abdi Ibrahim of Lewiston was in 8th District Court for a juvenile detention hearing. Because he is charged with felonies, his court proceedings are held in public.

His attorney, Richard Charest, said a residential facility that offers programs that address the teen’s problems is the least restrictive setting for him, something required by the state’s juvenile code.

Judge Rick Lawrence agreed, provided a safety plan is in place that will protect Ibrahim as well as the community.

Assistant District Attorney Melanie Portas opposed the placement, telling Lawrence that Ibrahim posed a risk to the community if released from a lockdown facility such as Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, where the teen has been held since he was charged.

Abdi was already in trouble with the law at 9-years old***

Portas cited Ibrahim’s criminal record, which dates back to when he was 9 years old. Charges include theft, robbery, burglary and assault. In addition to the arson fires, he has been charged with criminal mischief and criminal threatening, Portas said.

She said the seriousness of the new charges, coupled with the manner in which fire investigators believe the fires were set — using gasoline on materials in a Pierce Street garage and igniting them with a lighter — was of particular concern to prosecutors.

A residential setting “cannot ensure that (Ibrahim) will not set another fire,” she told the judge.

Portas referenced a recent psychological evaluation that concluded Ibrahim suffered from poor impulse control, displayed a “significant amount of immaturity” and “under appreciates” the effect of his actions on others by showing a lack of remorse.

Photo:  The photo is from one of the Lewiston fires, but the article has this informative item.  Abdi’s parents both live in Lewiston, but not together.  It makes me wonder if Dad has more than one wife, a common practice in Somalia that has been brought to America.

Ibrahim lives with his mother, Marian Ibrahim, according to court papers. His father, Yussef Abdi, lives at a separate address in Lewiston.

An American kid is charged in another of the fires.

***It just occurred to me—I wonder if Abdi was among the Somali boys back in 2009 who were attacking people (for the “thrill”) on the streets of multicultural Lewiston, here.

For new readers, our complete Lewiston archive is here. Be sure to see this 2009 post about how Somalis came to be in Lewiston in the first place, it is still one of our most widely read posts.

Food stamp fraud bust story with a couple of important pieces of information

Lately I’ve passed up a bunch of food stamp fraud stories because they were mostly the same-old story.  There was one I should have posted though and didn’t where the immigrant fraudster not only trafficked in food stamps in his convenience store, but also ran an illegal gambling parlor in the back room.

Innocuous-looking Cheese store busted in Schenectady, NY

These food stamp fraudsters in Schenectady, Vishnunarine Singh and Elvin Singh, were charged in your basic scam involving exchanging food stamps for cash at 50 cents on the dollar.   However, here is the big difference with this story—to send a message, the prosecutor is going after the sellers of their stamps (the customers who got the cash)!  So, resettlement contractors need to alert their refugee clients that selling food stamp privileges is illegal!

70% if refugees (95% of Iraqis!) in the US are on food stamps as of the latest complete report we have from the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

From the Daily Gazette:

SCHENECTADY — The investigation into the city business that authorities say regularly defrauded the food stamp system continued Thursday, with the prosecutor saying the total number of recipients who illegally exchanged their benefits for cash could reach into the hundreds.

Nearly two dozen have already been arrested for the alleged actions at Cheese Bakery and Grocery, 1007 State St., including the store owner and his son. More arrests are possible, officials have said. Those not charged criminally could face loss of their benefit privileges.

Vishnunarine Singh

Prosecutor Katie McCutcheon provided more information on the investigation Thursday, after store owner Vishnunarine Singh, 57, of Ozone Park, and his son Elvin, 27, of Schenectady, were arraigned on multiple felony counts. Both pleaded not guilty.

Elvin Singh

The two are accused of essentially trading food stamp benefits for cash, with little or no actual food included in the transactions. The recipient would then get typically about 50 percent of the face value of the benefits and the store would keep the other half, officials said.

Such scams have been perpetrated before by store owners.

Three store owners and one store operator were arrested in 2011 in Albany, accused of running the same type of scam. Together, they were believed to be responsible for more than $6.1 million in suspicious food stamp activity.

In the Schenectady case, the arrests of the store owner and son on food stamp fraud charges were accompanied by the arrests of 21 others, accused of using their own food stamp privileges at the store illegally.

“We do want to send a message to the community, store vendors as well as recipients, that this type of fraudulent activity is not going to be tolerated in this community,” McCutcheon said.

Then reporters Steven Cook and Kathleen Moore did a bit of extra research and reported this (below).  So where is the mainstream media?  Where is the Washington Post, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal on the story of an epidemic in convenience store food stamp trafficking?   Based on my 5-plus years of following the scams as a side interest here at RRW, I will bet a bundle that the largest majority of busted stores are owned and operated by immigrants.  Is no one curious how they were able to finance and set-up these scams in the first place?

Nationwide in fiscal year 2012, nearly 1,400 stores were permanently disqualified for trafficking and nearly 700 stores were sanctioned for other violations, according to the USDA. Those efforts were the result of reviews of more than 1,500 stores and nearly 4,500 undercover investigations.

For our complete archive on Food Stamp Fraud cases, click here.