Woman who posed as refugee in Westbrook to repay $44,000 in welfare benefits

Posted Oct. 03, 2013, at 3:32 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A Westbrook woman who used another person’s identity to enter the United States from Somalia and obtain welfare benefits was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court to three years of probation and ordered to pay nearly $44,000 in restitution.

Nasteho Yusuf Sharif, 30, aka Nasteho Shuto Sharif and Nasteho Bella, entered the U.S. as an imposter, according to court documents. She received benefits from MaineCare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance and the Portland Housing Authority between 2004 and 2010 totaling $43,778.

On Wednesday, she pleaded guilty to two counts of theft of federal funds.

Sharif, who is a native of Somalia, used another person’s identity to enter the U.S. as a refugee in August 2003, according to court documents. She began receiving benefits using the false name Nasteho Shuto Sharif in Maine the next year.

She originally waived indictment in October 2011 and pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement relating to naturalization, citizenship or registry of aliens and two counts of making a false statement in matters with the executive branch of the United States to obtain welfare benefits and to become a lawful permanent resident.

Sharif successfully argued after she was sentenced to three years of probation in the 2011 case that her lawyer failed to tell her that a conviction on the latter two charges carried a mandatory deportation penalty. Those two counts were vacated and, in a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Sharif pleaded guilty to the two theft charges, according to court documents.

Her attorney, George “Toby” Dilworth of Portland, said Thursday that Sharif is subject to removal from the U.S. due to her convictions, but it is at the discretion of an immigration judge, not mandatory.

Sharif is scheduled to appear in U.S. Immigration Court in January.

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