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Originally published April 20, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 20, 2007 at 2:03 AM

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Somali-owned travel agency in Tukwila raided in search

A joint terrorism task force has seized computers and files from a Somali-owned travel agency in Tukwila as part of an international search...

Seattle Times staff reporter

A joint terrorism task force has seized computers and files from a Somali-owned travel agency in Tukwila as part of an international search for Ruben Shumpert, a fugitive who fled to Somalia in November.

Shumpert, a South Seattle barber, had been due to appear in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Nov. 21 to be sentenced on felony charges of possession of a firearm and a related counterfeiting charge, but never appeared.

The search for Shumpert led investigators to Samala Travel, one of several Somali-owned businesses at the intersection of 146th Avenue South and International Boulevard.

Adam Ashoor, the owner of Samala Travel, said the FBI, King County Sheriff's Office and Tukwila police stormed the building around 10:30 Wednesday morning.

Fred Gutt, an FBI spokesman, confirmed officers executed a search warrant at Samala Travel.

"We are obviously interested in locating and apprehending Mr. Ruben Shumpert," Gutt said. "The investigation took us to that address." Gutt did not elaborate on what led them to Samala Travel.

Ashoor said officers took two computers, his cellphone and files related to his business, which is in the back of the Somali Grocery Store at the same address.

Mohammed Jama, a co-owner of the grocery store, said the officers spent four-and-a-half hours at the building and would not let anyone in or out.

"They came into the building guns drawn, like you see in the movies," Jama said. "I still don't know what they were looking for."

Jama said the officers never mentioned Shumpert, and Jama said he had never heard of him. Ashoor could not be reached Thursday to comment on whether he knew Shumpert.

Ashoor said Wednesday he received a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's office on March 22, ordering him to appear on April 4 and to bring "all business travel records relating to individuals traveling from the United States to Somalia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Oman."

Ashoor said he had planned to appear and had been gathering the requested documents when his grand jury appearance was canceled. "I was ready and I was cooperating with them," Ashoor said.

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Gutt said the FBI would not have requested, or been granted, a search warrant for Samala Travel if Ashoor had been as helpful as he claimed.

"A federal magistrate judge agreed with findings in an FBI affidavit that Mr. Ashoor had been anything but compliant," Gutt said, though he declined to go into specifics.

Anna Tolin, Ashoor's attorney, said the government has indicated to her that Ashoor is not under investigation.

Consequently, she said, "It's disappointing and outrageous that they've gone into his business this way. He's an innocent citizen and he's a very well-respected member of his community."

Three days before Shumpert was due in court last November, he called FBI agent Robert Walby and told him he was in Somalia and did not plan to return to the U.S., according to court papers.

David Bowermaster: 206-464-2724 or dbowermaster@seattletimes.com

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