MISSOULA — A Washington, D.C., man accused of picking up three individuals suspected of crossing illegally into Montana from Canada and leading law enforcement on a 76-mile, high speed car chase that ended near Whitefish admitted to an immigration crime today, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said.
Rastesfaye Alpha Neil, 39, pleaded guilty to transportation of illegal aliens as charged in an indictment. Neil faces a maximum five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy presided. Neil was detained pending further proceedings. Sentencing was set for Sept. 2.
In court documents filed in the case, the government alleged that Neil knowingly transported Christopher White, a Jamaica citizen; Naseem Ali Mohammed, a Somalia national and Canadian legal permanent resident; and Afrah Ahmed Abdi, a United States legal permanent resident and Somalia national; to help them remain illegally in the United States. All three were wanted by various Canadian law enforcement agencies.
The government alleged that at about 8:55 a.m. on Jan. 23, the Spokane Sector Border Patrol received information that three subjects with backpacks and wearing dark or camouflage parkas were entering the United States illegally in the West Kootenai area near Eureka.
Border Patrol agents responded to the area, spotted a southbound Nissan Sentra and attempted a traffic stop. While the Nissan initially yielded, it ultimately sped away as agents approached on foot. The Nissan led law enforcement agencies on a chase in which speeds reached 120 mph to 130 mph. The pursuit ended about one mile north of Whitefish when the Whitefish Police Department and Montana Highway Patrol 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 shortly before the chase began.
The government further alleged that one of the illegal border crossers had been in contact with Neil, rental car companies and travel agencies. Neil had flown to Kalispell on Jan. 22.
White pleaded guilty to illegal reentry of a deported or removed alien and is awaiting sentencing. Abdi is pending extradition to Canada, while Mohammed is 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.