Chanhassen Man Pleads Guilty to Lying to the FBI During Investigation of Missing Somali Men
May 5, 2010 - A 26-year-old Chanhassen man pleaded guilty today in federal court in Minneapolis to lying to the FBI during the investigation into the recruitment of young men in the U.S. to train with and fight for extremist groups in Somalia. Appearing before U.S. District Court Judge James M. Rosenbaum, Abdow Munye Abdow pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice in connection to his crime. He was indicted on October 13, 2009.
In his plea agreement, Abdow admitted that on October 8, 2009, he obstructed an FBI investigation by making false statements to agents. Specifically, Abdow told agents that although other men accompanied him in a rental car from Minnesota to Las Vegas and back in early October, he did not know their names, nor did he know who paid for the rental vehicle. In truth, four men were traveling with Abdow in a rental car at that time. They drove from Minnesota to San Diego, where three of the men were dropped off. Abdow knew the names or nicknames of all of the men accompanying him as well as the name of the person who paid for the rental vehicle. In fact, the car was rented with a debit card issued to Abdow himself.
This case arose from a traffic stop made by the Nevada Highway Patrol on October 6, 2009, about ten miles north of Las Vegas. According to a FBI affidavit, the patrol officer at the scene later reported to the FBI that Abdow had four men with him in the car. He said they claimed to be on their way to San Diego to attend a friend’s wedding. However, they gave him inconsistent explanations as to how they knew one another, and they seemed confused as to the identity of the person getting married as well as the location of their lodging in San Diego. As a result, the officer asked for and obtained permission to search the vehicle. He found a passport and $4,000 in cash. He also was able to identify two of the men with Abdow.
On October 8, those two men were further identified by a U.S. Customs Border Patrol officer as two of three people dropped off by a taxi at the U.S.-Mexico border crossing in San Ysidro, just south of San Diego. The men had airline tickets and told the officer they were flying
On that same day, back in Minnesota, Abdow was interviewed at his place of work by FBI agents. Prior to the interview, the agents reportedly informed Abdow that they were conducting an investigation into the disappearance of local Somali men. They also informed him that he was not under arrest and could stop the interview at any time. Nevertheless, Abdow agreed to speak.
In the interview, Abdow initially told the agents he had traveled out west earlier that month with one friend only. He said they drove to Las Vegas and back again. After the agents repeatedly asked him if he was telling the truth, Abdow conceded that others may have been in the car, but he did not know how many or their real names. He also said he had no idea who paid for the rental vehicle. All that information was false.
For his crime, Abdow faces a potential maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Judge Rosenbaum will determine his sentence at a future hearing not yet scheduled.
Investigation into the recruitment of young men to train with and fight for al-Shabaab has been conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. The investigation into this specific case was assisted by the Carver County Sheriff’s Office and the Nevada Highway Patrol.
The case is being prosecuted by W. Anders Folk, Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Minnesota, and William M. Narus, from the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section.