Man accused of lying to grand jury about absentee ballots was volunteer for Sen. Fateh

Senate candidate Zaynab Mohamed acknowledges the man on trial is her brother

By: - May 9, 2022 8:33 pm

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A volunteer for Democratic state Sen. Omar Fateh of Minneapolis testified in a federal trial Monday that he was recruited to help on the campaign by his high school friend Muse Mohamud Mohamed, who faces charges in the case for two counts of allegedly lying to a grand jury when he said three Minneapolis voters asked him to return absentee ballots for them in the August 2020 primary election. 

The testimony of Mustafa Hassan, the campaign volunteer, directly connected the case to Fateh’s 2020 campaign, when he unseated a DFL incumbent by nearly 2,000 votes.

Hassan said in court he was given three envelopes to return to the city elections office, but didn’t know the people whose names were on them, which, unbeknownst to Hassan, is a violation of election law.

The case is part of a wider federal investigation into “agent delivery” of absentee ballots, which is when voters with health problems or disabilities can have someone deliver their ballot to an election office. 

On Friday, the Reformer first reported on connections between Mohamed, who is on trial, and Fateh and Zaynab Mohamed, the DFL-endorsed candidate running for the Senate in the heavily Democratic District 63. The south Minneapolis address the accused man has listed on election office documents has also been listed as an address in public documents by Zaynab Mohamed, and Kaltum Mohamed, who is Fateh’s wife. 

Over the course of several weeks, Fateh and Zaynab Mohamed did not respond to multiple Reformer requests for comment on their connection to Muse Mohamed. But on Monday, Zaynab Mohamed released a statement to the Sahan Journal acknowledging that Muse Mohamed is her brother. 

“As a candidate for public office, it is my responsibility to be fully transparent and honest with the people I aim to represent,” she said in the statement. “I am not involved in this trial, nor am I a subject of the investigation.”

Last year, she told the Star Tribune she volunteered full time for Fateh’s campaign in 2020, when Fateh upset DFL state Sen. Jeff Hayden in the August primary. 

Use of ‘agent delivery’ spiked in 2020 primary 

Jon Martin, supervisor of administration for Minneapolis elections, testified Monday that agent delivery of ballots is not done frequently. About 500 people out of more than 84,000 voters requested that an agent deliver their ballot in the 2020 primary — about three or four times more than in the November general election, he said.

The feds allege Mohamed didn’t take any ballots to voters, but returned two of the ballots to the election office. One of the ballots Mohamed returned to the city was rejected when the voter voted in person on Election Day.

Nasro Jama, a 46-year-old mother of 10, was one of the voters in question. A few questions in, Jama said she was tired of being asked whether she asked Mohamed to take her absentee ballot to the Minneapolis Elections Office. 

Through a Somali interpreter, Jama expressed frustration at having to answer questions she’s been asked before. 

“Please don’t bother me,” she told the assistant U.S. attorney. 

She said she had never heard of Mohamed, and never asked him or anyone else to return an absentee ballot. 

When asked whether she signed documents authorizing Mohamed to pick up and return a ballot for her, Jama said no, and she didn’t know who forged her signature.

“I told you before,” she said.

Jama said she couldn’t recall whether she voted in the 2020 primary, but she always votes in person, not absentee.

“I don’t know this gentleman Muse,” she testified. “I don’t know how he got my information.” 

Under cross examination by Mohamed’s attorney, Charles Clippert, Jama said she was questioned by an FBI agent and others in October 2021 in her home, then in a St. Paul courthouse and then in her home again.

Asked by Clippert how she felt about the FBI showing up at her door, Jama said she was “so confused” because “they came with a lot of papers” and a recording device. But she said she wasn’t scared because “I knew I was innocent.” 

After she was done testifying, Jama scolded the prosecutor from the stand. “Don’t call me again,” she said. “I don’t know these people.”

Prosecutors said Muse also wasn’t authorized to request an absentee ballot for a voter named Abdiriman Ahmed Muse, who also testified Monday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Munoz said that Mohamed — while appearing before a grand jury on Oct. 14 — was asked “dozens of times” how he obtained absentee ballots for the voters, and “lied and lied and lied.” 

This story has been updated to reflect additional trial testimony and a statement by Zaynab Mohamed.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.

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