A Washington, D.C. man who used his Nissan Sentra to intercept three men after they illegally crossed the U.S.-Canada border near Eureka, and then led law enforcement on a 76-mile high-speed car chase that ended near Whitefish, was sentenced Friday to the 238 days he’s already served in custody.
Rastesfaye Alpha Neil, 40, pleaded guilty on April 21 at an appearance in U.S. District Court in Missoula, admitting to a single count of transporting illegal aliens. He faced a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Prosecutors recommended a sentence at the high end of the guideline range, requesting a period of incarceration between 18 and 24 months.
Instead, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy sentenced Neil to time served, and ordered that he remain on supervised release for three years.
According to federal charging documents, Neil knowingly transported three men — Christopher White, a Jamaica citizen; Naseem Ali Mohammed, a Somalia national and Canadian legal permanent resident; and Afrah Ahmed Abdi, a legal permanent U.S. resident and Somalia national — in an illegal effort “to help them remain illegally in the United States.”
All three men were wanted by various Canadian law enforcement agencies and have been charged with a range of crimes related to the latest incident.
The events that led to their arrest began on Jan. 23, when the U.S. Border Patrol responded to the West Kootenai area near Eureka for a report that three men wearing dark clothing and carrying backpacks were entering the United States near West Kootenai, which is not a legal port of entry. Agents attempted a traffic stop of a southbound Nissan Sentra leaving the area on West Kootenai Road, the only road leading out of the area where the border was breached. The agents activated their lights and sirens and the suspects initially pulled over, but when the agents exited their vehicle the Sentra sped away. The Nissan led law enforcement agencies on a 76-mile chase in which speeds reached 120 mph to 130 mph, records state. The pursuit ended about one mile north of Whitefish when law enforcement successfully spiked the Nissan’s tires. Law enforcement identified Neil as the driver and White, Mohammed and Abdi as passengers who had illegally entered the United States. One of the illegal border crossers had been in contact with Neil, as well as rental car companies and travel agencies, prosecutors said. Neil had flown to Kalispell on Jan. 22, one day prior to his arrest.
At a prior federal court hearing, White was sentenced to two years in prison for conviction of illegal reentry of a deported or removed alien. Abdi was extradited to Canada, while Mohammed remains a fugitive.
The Border Patrol, Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Eureka Police Department, Whitefish Police Department and Montana Highway Patrol investigated the case.
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