MISSOULA — A Washington, D.C., man who admitted to picking up three individuals who had crossed illegally into Montana from Canada and to leading law enforcement on a 76-mile car chase that ended near Whitefish was sentenced Friday, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.
Rastesfaye Alpha Neil, 40, pleaded guilty on April 21 to the transportation of illegal aliens. U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy presided.
Neil faced a possible sentence of five years in prison, a $250,00 fine and three years of supervised release. The government requested a sentence at the high end of the guideline range of 18 months to 24 months. The court sentenced Neil to time served of 238 days in custody and to three years of supervised release.
The government alleged in court records 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 on Jan. 23, the Spokane Sector Border Patrol responded to the West Kootenai area near Eureka for a report that three persons with backpacks and wearing dark clothing were entering the United States illegally.
Agents attempted a traffic stop of a southbound Nissan Sentra. While the Nissan initially yielded, it ultimately sped away as agents approached on foot.
The driver led law enforcement agencies on a 76-mile chase in which speeds reached 120 mph to 130 mph. 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, rental car companies and travel agencies. Neil had flown to Kalispell on Jan. 22.
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 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.