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HomeNewsArchivesFEDERAL AGENTS RAID PLAZA EXTRAS, OTHER SITES

FEDERAL AGENTS RAID PLAZA EXTRAS, OTHER SITES

Oct. 23, 2001 – FBI and other federal agents raided the three Plaza Extra supermarkets and other places of business in the Virgin Islands on Tuesday morning as part of what authorities said was an investigation into illegal alien smuggling.
Agents of the FBI, Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Customs, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service and the V.I. Police Department executed search warrants at the two Plaza Extra Supermarkets on St. Croix and the one on St. Thomas.
One of the principal Plaza Extra owners, Fathi Yusuf, a U.S. citizen who was born in Palestine, was inside the St. Thomas store speaking with investigators Tuesday morning.
Federal law-enforcement officials said there were other locations searched as well, but they did not disclose where those raids occurred.
The search warrants and all documents attached to them were being kept under seal to protect the integrity of the investigation, according to an announcement of the raids from the U.S. Attorney's Office on St. Thomas.
No arrests were made, and no charges have been filed in connection with the investigation, according to Acting U.S. Attorney David Atkinson. He did not say what the nature of the investigation was.
In a release, Atkinson urged the public not to draw any conclusions from the fact that the principal owners of Plaza Extra are Arab-Americans, and he noted that discrimination against anyone based on ethnicity or religion is a federal crime.
One of the other businesses federal officers visited was the Food Town Supermarket on St. Croix, also owned by Arab-Americans. There, a source said, authorities came in Tuesday afternoon, asked questions, and then left.
Also Tuesday afternoon, agents searched several convenience stores owned by Palestinian-born residents on St. Thomas, including the One Stop in Altona, the Esso station in Red Hook and the Lindbergh Bay Grocery across from Cyril E. King Airport.
Majdi Muhyieden, the owner of the St. Thomas One Stop and Red Hook Esso station as well as several other stores, said the agents searched the One Stop for about 45 minutes on Tuesday afternoon. He said the agents were pleasant and that he cooperated completely with them, but that he did not see a search warrant and felt that they were unfairly targeting Arab-owned stores.
"I think it's only against Arabs, and I don't think it's right," Muhyieden said. "I cooperated 100 percent, and they were nice, but it doesn't look good for our customers. It makes us suspect."
"They are executing routine search warrants," Hugh Mabe, assistant U.S. attorney, said Tuesday morning. He added that more information might be available later Tuesday. No arrests had been made Tuesday morning in connection with the raids.
The Plaza Extra supermarkets had been open a short time when the agents made the raids at about 8 a.m. Employees at the St. Thomas Plaza Extra store said the agents gathered the employees to photograph and interview them, then let them leave the store. The supermarket area in the Tutu Park Mall was blocked off by police throughout the morning as agents carried out small boxes said to contain evidence.
Last year Yusuf, 60, pleaded guilty to three counts of hiring three illegal immigrants from Palestine. That plea came in connection with an investigation in which several other St. Thomas businessmen with connections with the island's Arab community also pleaded guilty to charges that they tried to help the three men immigrate to the United States illegally.
The illegal immigrants, Ahmed Daas, Mohammed Alqadi and Suleiman Mohammed Jussef, were stopped at the airport in San Juan as they attempted to fly from St. Thomas to Florida in 1999, according to court records.
As part of Yusuf's plea bargain, he agreed to cooperate with future investigations and to make monthly reports of all of the employees at Plaza Extra, according to court papers. He was sentenced in September to one month of home confinement and a year of probation.
Muhyieden, a naturalized U.S. citizen who has lived in the United States since 1974 and on St. Thomas for about 10 years, said he has never been in any trouble with the law and has not been connected to any illegal immigration cases.
"There is no reason for them to be at my place, and I told them that," he said, adding that he signed a consent to search the store only after the agents had completed their work. Muhyieden said he and all of the other Arabs he knows completely condemn any terrorist attacks, and he told the agents he would call them if he heard anything suspicious.
Workers at several other Arab-owned convenience stores on St. Thomas — the Hometown Grocery in Anna's Retreat, Fort Mylner Grocery and Friendly Grocery in Dorothea — said no agents had been to their stores as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the mainland, federal agents have cited illegal immigration to the U.S. Virgin Islands as a national security issue. They have not said whether any recent immigration investigations are connected to the nationwide search for people linked to terrorist activities.

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Oct. 23, 2001 - FBI and other federal agents raided the three Plaza Extra supermarkets and other places of business in the Virgin Islands on Tuesday morning as part of what authorities said was an investigation into illegal alien smuggling.
Agents of the FBI, Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Customs, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service and the V.I. Police Department executed search warrants at the two Plaza Extra Supermarkets on St. Croix and the one on St. Thomas.
One of the principal Plaza Extra owners, Fathi Yusuf, a U.S. citizen who was born in Palestine, was inside the St. Thomas store speaking with investigators Tuesday morning.
Federal law-enforcement officials said there were other locations searched as well, but they did not disclose where those raids occurred.
The search warrants and all documents attached to them were being kept under seal to protect the integrity of the investigation, according to an announcement of the raids from the U.S. Attorney's Office on St. Thomas.
No arrests were made, and no charges have been filed in connection with the investigation, according to Acting U.S. Attorney David Atkinson. He did not say what the nature of the investigation was.
In a release, Atkinson urged the public not to draw any conclusions from the fact that the principal owners of Plaza Extra are Arab-Americans, and he noted that discrimination against anyone based on ethnicity or religion is a federal crime.
One of the other businesses federal officers visited was the Food Town Supermarket on St. Croix, also owned by Arab-Americans. There, a source said, authorities came in Tuesday afternoon, asked questions, and then left.
Also Tuesday afternoon, agents searched several convenience stores owned by Palestinian-born residents on St. Thomas, including the One Stop in Altona, the Esso station in Red Hook and the Lindbergh Bay Grocery across from Cyril E. King Airport.
Majdi Muhyieden, the owner of the St. Thomas One Stop and Red Hook Esso station as well as several other stores, said the agents searched the One Stop for about 45 minutes on Tuesday afternoon. He said the agents were pleasant and that he cooperated completely with them, but that he did not see a search warrant and felt that they were unfairly targeting Arab-owned stores.
"I think it's only against Arabs, and I don't think it's right," Muhyieden said. "I cooperated 100 percent, and they were nice, but it doesn't look good for our customers. It makes us suspect."
"They are executing routine search warrants," Hugh Mabe, assistant U.S. attorney, said Tuesday morning. He added that more information might be available later Tuesday. No arrests had been made Tuesday morning in connection with the raids.
The Plaza Extra supermarkets had been open a short time when the agents made the raids at about 8 a.m. Employees at the St. Thomas Plaza Extra store said the agents gathered the employees to photograph and interview them, then let them leave the store. The supermarket area in the Tutu Park Mall was blocked off by police throughout the morning as agents carried out small boxes said to contain evidence.
Last year Yusuf, 60, pleaded guilty to three counts of hiring three illegal immigrants from Palestine. That plea came in connection with an investigation in which several other St. Thomas businessmen with connections with the island's Arab community also pleaded guilty to charges that they tried to help the three men immigrate to the United States illegally.
The illegal immigrants, Ahmed Daas, Mohammed Alqadi and Suleiman Mohammed Jussef, were stopped at the airport in San Juan as they attempted to fly from St. Thomas to Florida in 1999, according to court records.
As part of Yusuf's plea bargain, he agreed to cooperate with future investigations and to make monthly reports of all of the employees at Plaza Extra, according to court papers. He was sentenced in September to one month of home confinement and a year of probation.
Muhyieden, a naturalized U.S. citizen who has lived in the United States since 1974 and on St. Thomas for about 10 years, said he has never been in any trouble with the law and has not been connected to any illegal immigration cases.
"There is no reason for them to be at my place, and I told them that," he said, adding that he signed a consent to search the store only after the agents had completed their work. Muhyieden said he and all of the other Arabs he knows completely condemn any terrorist attacks, and he told the agents he would call them if he heard anything suspicious.
Workers at several other Arab-owned convenience stores on St. Thomas -- the Hometown Grocery in Anna's Retreat, Fort Mylner Grocery and Friendly Grocery in Dorothea -- said no agents had been to their stores as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the mainland, federal agents have cited illegal immigration to the U.S. Virgin Islands as a national security issue. They have not said whether any recent immigration investigations are connected to the nationwide search for people linked to terrorist activities.