PORTLAND — Federal agents seized computers and records Friday from three Somali businesses that provide money wire transfers.

Under warrants obtained through the U.S. Attorney’s Office, agents searched the Al-Amin Halaal Market on St. John Street, the Dahabshil Inc. money transfer business on Congress Street and Amal Express on Anderson Street, said the owners of those businesses.

Mahdi Ahmed, owner of Al-Amin, and Habib Munye, owner of Dahabshil, provided copies of the warrants, authorized by U.S. Magistrate

Judge John Rich III. The owners at all three businesses said no one was arrested or charged in connection with the seizures.
U.S. Attorney Paula Silsby declined to comment Friday.

The focus of the investigation was unclear. The warrant for Al-Amin referred to any information relating to the wire transfer business, or to food stamp fraud. Documents for Dahabshil didn’t indicate a reason for the search.

Ahmed said agents broke two safes at his store and took cash, checks and records unrelated to the wire transfer business.
“Basically, they took everything,” he said. “I have no idea what they’re looking for; they have no respect.”

Ahmed said 10 agents searched his store Friday morning. One of the documents he was left with after the search and seizure was a subpoena, ordering him to appear before a federal grand jury in March.

More than 20 agents searched the Dahabshil business, showing up at 9 a.m. and staying until about 3 p.m., Munye said through his niece, Halima Abu, who works for her uncle. Some wore business suits while others wore uniforms with bulletproof vests, Abu said.

The paperwork indicated the warrant was served by a Department of Treasury agent.

Abu said she wasn’t upset by the search, saying “the government can look at whatever it wants.” But she said she is concerned about the customers who now cannot use the wire transfer business to send money to relatives in Africa.

At Amal Express, Aynanshe Hersi said he spoke to federal agents on the telephone and agreed to meet them at their offices on Middle Street. They asked him questions about who used the money transfer business, Hersi said, and about money transfer businesses in Lewiston.

Agents also seized money and computers from his business, Hersi said.

Mohamud Barre, president of the Somali Culture and Development Association of Maine, said the immigrant community is confused and worried about its ability to get money to family members in Africa. Many family members there have no income, and survive solely on the money sent from relatives in the United States, he said.

He said his group will try to find out what the government is investigating.

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

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