(And I'm betting there's more to this story than 2 young men who wanted to travel to Somalia.)
Omar Jamal, spokesman for the Somali Justice Advocacy Center, says the owner of Amana Travel was approached several months ago by two young men who wanted to travel to Somalia. Jamal says the owner, Ali Mohamud, refused to book the tickets when he learned the young men's parents were unaware of their plans.
Amana Travel owner Mohamud is facing separate charges of fraud and felony theft, for allegedly taking money for tickets he never bought and pocketing the refunds of tickets he canceled.
Bingo! Looks like the trail is leading back to Abubakar As Siddique Mosque - doesn't it always?
He said the woman, who knew the young men from her work at Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, advised him to return their passports to them. He said he did — and never dealt with them again.
The young men, Mustafa Ali Salat and Mohamed Hassan, found a way to go to Somalia anyway later in 2008, family and community members say. "Somehow, eventually, they ended up leaving," said Omar Jamal, executive director of Somali Justice Advocacy Center. "We don't know how that happened."
More on the fraud charges faced by the travel agency's owner:
Information about the search warrant at the travel agency emerged after Mohamud was arrested by local police in a separate matter. Mohamud is charged with theft by swindle. Authorities say he took money from about a dozen clients and didn't issue valid travel tickets or refund payments. He made his first court appearance Friday in Hennepin County and was released with certain conditions, including the surrender of his passport. No plea was entered.
Mohamud, who spoke to the AP after his release from jail, said he is confused and worried by the swindling allegations, saying some of the alleged victims have already been issued tickets.
Not so fast there, bucko.
Some customers reported that they didn't realize Amana had canceled their trips, or that the tickets were bogus, until they arrived at the airport ready to board their flights.
KAALtv.com video on the arrest can be found here. It looks like Amana's owner has trouble with his landlord too - he's being sued for the non-payment of $5000 in eviction charges. What a fine, upstanding citizen.
And according to KSTPtv.com Minneapolis police believe he may be involved in additional crimes:
"We believe he may have been involved in additional crimes," Minneapolis Police Lt. Brad Sporny told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
Authorities want any businesses that may also be victims of Mohamud to call the Minneapolis Police Department at (612) 673-2941.
And in case you missed it (like I did when I was MIA): FBI searches Rochester homes in Somali probe
One of the women says the agents told her they received a tip that she was supporting violent insurgents in Somalia. It's a claim she adamantly denies. Amina Ali, a U.S. citizen for five years, said the experience left her feeling shaken and violated.
The same afternoon that Ali's home was raided, her friend, Hawo Hassan, says FBI agents were searching her Rochester apartment. Hassan was helping Ali with the clothing drive. She's also set up a shelter in Somalia for elderly poor people.
Personal computers and Islamic books were seized in the search but here's the suspicious part:
And while she has raised money for needy people in Somalia, she more often encourages individuals in Minnesota to wire the money themselves, she said.
unh-huh. Now, this just doesn't pass the smell test to me. Sure sounds like a hawala money laundering operation to me. I've said it once, I'll say it again - it's a disgrace to this country that 8 years after 9/11 hawala operations are still flourishing in this country. Shut them down!