LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Somali man was sentenced Tuesday to six months in prison and six months of house arrest for leading an illegal prescription drug distribution ring and selling the stimulant khat while using a check-cashing scheme to launder more than $6 million from a Louisville storefront.
U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II in Louisville also ordered 43-year-old Abdalla Hajisufi to repay the state $119,000 for underreporting his income while claiming eligibility for food stamps.
Heyburn sentenced Hajisufi's son, 20-year-old Mohamad Hajisufi, a native of Kenya and a University of Louisville student, to a year of probation for playing a minor role in the plot.
The two pleaded guilty in June to conspiring to distribute the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone between November 2011 and March 2012 to customers at their business, the Hana Store.
Abdalla Hajisufi also pleaded guilty to managing and owning an unlicensed money transmitting business operating out of the Hana Store. Hajisufi admitted to cashing payroll checks from employees of a temporary employment agency, and deducting a small fee for the transaction, without complying with the licensing and registration requirements of Kentucky state laws.
The FBI said Hajisufi cashed nearly 107,000 payroll checks totaling more than $6.6 million from July 2006 through December 2010 at the Hana Store.
Hajisufi further agreed to the forfeiture of $25,008 seized at The Hana Store during execution of the FBI search warrant on March 13, 2012.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Snyder said Abdalla Hajisufi ran a drug dealing operation, an illegal business and spent time "ripping off every available welfare program" before being indicted and fleeing the country in 2012.
Abdalla Hajisufi's attorney, Mark Chandler, asked Heyburn for some leniency in sentencing. Chandler described his client as a Somali native who fled to snake-infested Kenyan refugee camps before arriving in the United States. Since then, Chandler said, Hajisufi has maintained steady employment and taken care of his wife and seven children.
"Obviously, prison doesn't scare him," Chandler said. "He's been through more and seen more than any of us in this room."
Mohamad Hajisufi's attorney, federal public defender Don Meier, said his client played a very small role in the plot.
"This was a foolish mistake," Meier said.
Khat is a flowering plant native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Somalia and Yemen are among the places where khat is commonplace. Users chew the leaf to release stimulants that produce a mild high.
The father and son were fugitives from the FBI until their arrest on January when they attempted to re-enter the United States on a flight from Europe at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. The two fled the country after being charged in May 2012 and missed their scheduled arraignment a month later.
Family members told the FBI the pair traveled to Canada in May 2012.
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