Barkhad Abdi Stopped By Immigration Officials Over Criminal History

Minnesota actor Barkhad Abdi, who gained fame as a Somali pirate in the 2013 film “Captain Phillips,” was stopped briefly by U.S. customs officials in February while returning to the U.S. after accepting an award for his performance overseas.

Abdi, 28, is a permanent legal resident in the U.S. and several previous criminal offenses flagged him when he returned to the U.S., according to a local federal source with knowledge of the case.

He faces a possible hearing this week with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which stopped him after he returned from accepting the British equivalent of the Oscar as a best supporting actor in the film. He was also nominated for an Oscar.

On August 18, 2012, Barkhad was arrested by Black Hawk County Sheriff's County Office in Iowa, along with four others after cops were called to a disturbance on MM 60 near Gilberstville.

A police report from the time states: 'On arrival, two subjects were holding another subject down on the ground after he had allegedly ingested a plant leave material called 'Khat' and drank a partial bottle of liquid Tylenol.

'The combination of the two caused the subject to lose control of his faculties and attempt to jump out of a moving vehicle.

'Deputies during their investigation found suspected Marijuana in the vehicle as well as a plastic baggie containing the suspected 'Khat'.

Under his full name Barkhad Abdinasir Abdi, the actor and his friends were all charged with Possession of Marijuana and Possession of Khat and transported to the Black Hawk County Jail. Cops were assisted at the scene by fire departments, Waterloo Police K-9 Unit and the Tri-County Drug Task Force.

The charge was later dismissed by Iowa Court.

It was not the first time Barkhad had been in trouble with the law. On February 2, 2004, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail and given one year of probation for giving a police officer a false name of another person, and buying liquor aged under 21. He was also fined $1000.

The following year, on June 1, 2005, Barkhad was charged with financial transaction card fraud and sentenced to 200 days in jail and two years probation, alongside being given a $500 fine.

While the arrests might be considered minor, any sort of drug offense could result in immigration action against him, the source said. But it is unlikely Abdi, who came to the U.S. at 14 from Somalia by way of Yemen, would be deported because federal immigration authorities have shown little appetite for making a move for any but the most serious offenses, the source said.

Abdi, who is said to be splitting time between Los Angeles and Minneapolis, could not be reached for comment. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection regional office in Detroit did not return requests for comment.

Abdi, who answered an open call for his role as the lead Somali pirate in “Captain Phillips,” has never denied his past. In February, he told the Daily Beast: “Our mistakes shape us. You make a mistake and it makes you a better person. You learn from it. I wasn’t a complete man.”

It is unclear whether the current situation with federal authorities will have an impact on some of his activities in Minnesota and in his acting career in Hollywood. Abdi is slated to throw out the first pitch for the Minnesota Twins home opener and is a pitchman for MNsure, the state’s health insurance marketplace.

Star Tribune
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