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Friday, February 23, 2024


Long-time V.I. businessman Fathi Yousef is one of five men charged in an alien-smuggling conspiracy case by Federal authorities.
The men had an initial appearance in Federal District Court on St. Thomas Wednesday afternoon on charges of conspiracy to smuggle illegal aliens into the United States and harboring illegal aliens. Arrested along with Yousef, 58, were Ali Abu Ahmed, 44, Abu Hussein, 41, Amjad Muhyeddin, 30, and Tallal Mustafa, 28.
The arrests followed raids on the Plaza Extra supermarket and Lindbergh Bay market on St. Thomas and the St. Croix Plaza Extra on Tuesday.
Six workers at the St. Thomas stores were subsequently arrested for lacking valid employment authorization, according to Ivan Ortiz, spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service office in Puerto Rico. He said the workers arrested at the stores will probably be deported.
One person was arrested on St. Croix for working illegally, Ortiz said.
Yousef, part owner of the Plaza Extras and a businessman in the territory for more than 30 years, was arrested a day after the store raids as part of the same series of events, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hugh Mabe said.
Neither Yousef nor his St. Thomas attorney, Robert King, returned calls from The Source on Thursday.
The five men are alleged to have participated in the transporting of two illegal aliens from St. Thomas to San Juan, Puerto Rico, in February. The two, Arab nationals, were arrested in San Juan as they were boarding a flight to Miami.
According to the INS, after interviewing the two the INS learned of six other Arab nationals and a U.S. citizen involved in the scheme. After an investigation, arrest warrants were issued on May 17 for those arrested on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Ahmed and Hussein are also charged with a second criminal complaint alleging that they transported three illegal aliens from St. Martin to St. Thomas in January.
The INS alleges that, as part of the smuggling activities, illegal aliens were employed in local businesses owned and/or operated by Arab nationals who, for a fee, would find them spouses so they could become legal U.S. residents.
After the five men appeared in District Court on Wednesday, all were released from custody on unsecured $10,000 bonds. They had to surrender their passports to the court and were told not to leave the country without permission.
Conspiracy to smuggle and harbor illegal aliens carries a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The offenses of smuggling, transporting and harboring illegal aliens each carry maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Aug. 24 in District Court on St. Thomas.

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