News and Press Releases

Five Somalis Sentenced to Life Plus 80 Years in Prison for Piracy Against USS Nicholas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 14, 2011

NORFOLK, Va. –Five men from Somalia were sentenced today to life followed by a consecutive 80 years in prison for engaging in piracy and related offenses in their attack on the USS Nicholas.

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office; Alex J. Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office; and Mark Russ, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in Norfolk, made the announcement after sentencing by United States District Judge Mark S. Davis.

“Today marks the longest sentence ever given to a pirate in U.S. court, following the first time in over 190 years that an American jury has convicted a defendant of piracy,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Today’s sentences should send a clear message to those who attempt to engage in piracy: Armed attacks on U.S.-flagged vessels carry severe consequences in U.S. courts. Modern-day pirates not only threaten human lives but also disrupt international commerce by extorting hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom payments. It is believed that between 650 to 800 people are held hostage by Somali pirates and that the global cost of piracy is as high as $12 billion annually.”

“Modern-day pirates who wreak havoc off the Horn of Africa will be met with modern-day American justice,” said Assistant Director in Charge Fedarcyk.  “The skull and crossbones may be a relic of the past, but the threat of violent piracy remains very real.  The FBI remains firmly committed to enforcing the rule of law on the high seas, protecting Americans, and American vessels.”

On Nov. 24, 2010, the jury convicted the five men – Mohammed Modin Hasan, Gabul Abdullahi Ali, Abdi Wali Dire, Abdi Mohammed Gurewardher, and Abdi Mohammed Umar, all from Somalia – of piracy, attack to plunder a vessel, act of violence against persons on a vessel, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with a dangerous weapon on federal officers and employees, conspiracy to use firearms during a crime of violence, and multiple firearm counts, including the use of a rocket propelled grenade (RPG).

The Somalis were indicted on April 21, 2010, and were later charged with additional crimes in a 14-count superseding indictment on July 7, 2010. According to evidence and trial testimony, the five men left Somalia in search of a merchant ship to pirate. They used a larger ship full of supplies, along with two smaller vessels loaded with assault weapons and a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) that served as attack boats.  On April 1, 2010, Hasan, Ali, and Dire boarded one of these smaller vessels and set out to pirate what they believed to be a merchant ship, while Gurewardher and Umar remained onboard the large ship to maintain that ship during the attack.

Ali and Dire each carried an assault weapon, and Hasan carried an RPG.  They opened fire on a ship, which they later discovered was the USS Nicholas, an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate homeported in Norfolk, Va. 

The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph DePadilla, John Davis and Benjamin L. Hatch from the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Jerome Teresinski from the Department of Justice’s National Security Division prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/vae.  Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.uspci.uscourts.gov.

 

 

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