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Driver sentenced for role in illegal border crossing

Daily Inter Lake | September 24, 2021 7:00 AM

A Washington, D.C., man arrested after helping three people illegally cross the border from Canada will spend the next three years under supervision.

Authorities arrested Rastesfaye Alpha Neil, 40, following a 76-mile law enforcement chase in January that began in Lincoln County and ended outside of Whitefish. U.S. Border Patrol agents were alerted to Neil after cameras picked up three individuals with backpacks coming across the border near the West Kootenai area Jan. 23, court documents said.

Neil served as the driver for the trio and was in contact with them prior to the crossing. He flew into Kalispell on Jan. 22, officials said.

Neil pleaded guilty in April in federal court to a transportation of illegal aliens charge. Prosecutors recommended he serve 18 to 24 months behind bars, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Instead, he was sentenced to time served — 238 days — and three years of supervision.

All three of Neil’s passengers were wanted by Canadian law enforcement, according to U.S. Department of Justice officials.

In the intervening months since the arrests, Christopher White, a Jamaican national, earned a two-year bid for illegal reentry of a deported or removed alien. Afrah Ahmed Abdi, a legal permanent resident from Somalia, was extradited to Canada, where he faces murder charges. Those charges stem from the 2020 shooting death of a man in a Saskatoon area restaurant.

The final passenger, Naseem Ali Mohammed, a Canadian legal permanent resident from Somalia, remains at large. He gave authorities a fake name and claimed U.S. citizenship after his January arrest. He was subsequently released from custody.