Sunday, September 16, 2012
Belize in development stage similar to Australia, 150 years ago.
St. Paul Pioneer Press
While convicted fraudster Khaffak Ansari heads back to Minnesota to face new charges, federal officials say they will be investigating how he could travel to Belize.
The issue: He had a passport. He wasn't supposed to.
A federal magistrate in May 2011 ordered Ansari to surrender his passport as a condition of his release while he awaited trial. He'd been charged in a food-stamp fraud scheme that cost taxpayers $2.5 million.
U.S. Magistrate Jeanne Graham was so insistent Ansari turn over his passport that on the form where it says the defendant must "surrender any passport to Pretrial Services as directed," she crossed out "as directed," wrote "immediately" and underlined it.
But when Ansari got into trouble in San Pedro, Belize, on Sept 6 -- a female employee told police that he held her against her will -- he had his passport. The local paper, the San Pedro Sun, even published a photo of it, open to the page with Ansari's photo and name.
San Pedro is a town of 12,400 on the southern part of Ambergris Caye, an island off the eastern coast of Belize.
Kevin Lowry, chief probation officer of the District of Minnesota, said he couldn't say if Ansari gave up his passport because he wasn't allowed to talk about individual cases.
"Each case belongs to the judge, and it's up to them to release any details," he said. "I can't tell you a whole lot."
John Lucas, the attorney who represented Ansari, said he didn't know for sure if his client surrendered the
"I just sort of assumed that it happened," he said. "I wasn't involved in that exchange."
Ansari, 46, of Arden Hills, owned and operated Stryker Market, a small grocery in St. Paul's West Side neighborhood. He was accused in a scheme to bilk the government of money through illegal use of electronic benefit transfer cards.
In a deal with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to one count of fraud, while two others were dismissed.
Ansari was indicted Tuesday for failing to turn himself in to a federal prison June 11 to start serving a 41-month sentence in the fraud case. A judge had allowed him to give himself up.
Jeanne Cooney, a U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman, said prosecutors probably would look into the passport issue.
As of the end of business Thursday, no hearing date had been set, and Cooney said she didn't know if Ansari had arrived back in Minnesota yet.
Six days before Ansari was to turn himself in, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson of St. Paul recommended to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons that Ansari be allowed to serve his sentence at the low-security facility in Petersburg, Va., 120 miles from the man's elderly parents in Durham, N.C.
The Bureau of Prisons isn't bound by a judge's recommendation, and they told Ansari to surrender himself to the federal prison at Fort Dix, N.J. -- 360 miles from Durham.
Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said that if an inmate doesn't show up when he is supposed to, the prison notifies the U.S. Marshal's Service by the end of the day.
He said he didn't know if that had been done in Ansari's case. A spokesman for the U.S. marshal's office in Minneapolis did not immediately return a phone call.
Jorge Aldana, a reporter for the San Pedro Sun, said police told him that Ansari had entered the country Aug. 18. He managed two nightclubs -- the Boatyard Bar, which he was buying, and the Skybox Sports Lounge.
Cpl. Bietre Avila of the Belize Police Department in San Pedro said a woman who worked at the Boatyard Bar told police that Ansari told her he was a wanted man and then held her against her will.
She escaped and reported the incident to police, who took him into custody. He acknowledged he was wanted in the United States, and Avila said they contacted U.S. officials.
Posted by A Professional BEACH BUM retires in Belize! at 1:29 AM