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September 8, 2005
Feds Finding Something Amiss In Minneapolis?

Federal authorities appear to be conducting two different investigations into Twin Cities politics, as they launched raids at a city councilman's home and the offices of a key player in an earlier bribery scandal. However, an alert CQ reader whose name I will withhold for the moment found a connection between the two which may indicate that the FBI has uncovered something larger than a repeat of the Brian Herron case. Local ABC affiliate KSTP has a terse statement:

[Dean] Zimmermann is a member of the Green party and a first-term council member. He wasn't available for comment, but his campaign manager, Lauren Maker, said the agents spent three hours at Zimmermann's home.

Maker said the agents told her the affidavit attached to the search warrant was sealed, so she couldn't explain the purpose of the search.

Because of redistricting, Zimmermann is in the same ward as council vice president Robert Lilligren, who is a D-F-L'er. Maker called the search politically motivated because it came five days before the primary election.

On the same day, the FBI also conducted a raid at the offices of Basim Sabri, who now makes his home at Leavenworth federal prison for his role in the bribery of former Minneapolis city councilman Brian Herron in 2004. The Minneapolis Star Tribune carried the story earlier:

While Minneapolis developer Basim Sabri was in the federal prison camp at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Wednesday, federal agents searched his Lake Street office for evidence of more crimes.

The search warrant affidavit said the FBI has probable cause to believe that he and Hanan Sabri, both his secretary and a cousin, engaged "in a scheme to submit a false and fraudulent letter, supposedly from a government witness," to U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle while awaiting sentencing on a bribery conviction.

On Dec. 6, 2004, Basim Sabri was convicted of bribing former Minneapolis City Council Member Brian Herron after a trial over which Kyle presided. In May, Kyle sentenced Basim Sabri to two years and nine months in prison and a $75,000 fine.

On Dec. 22, 2004, an unsigned computer-generated letter arrived at Kyle's office with Herron's name typed at the bottom and no return address, the affidavit said. The letter claimed that Basim Sabri was innocent and "framed by the FBI."

Coincidence? Perhaps. After all, the purpose of the latter raid appears to involve forgery and false testimony. However, the fact that Zimmerman replaced Herron after his arrest and conviction for bribery seems odd, and the Sabris have connections to this councilman as well. Minneapolis Confidential has a Strib story from April of this year involving a third Sabri, Hamoudi, Basim's brother and Hanan's cousin:

Zimmermann Gets Big Money Help From Sabri

Central Minneapolis developer Hamoudi Sabri is willing to pay whatever it takes -- possibly $1 million -- to help elect a new City Council.

In Sunday's Star Tribune, he placed an unusual classified ad seeking a "public relations professional/political organizer." The ad read: "Money no object for best candidate. Start immediately. Design media and community campaign re: City of Mpls wards 9,6 & 8 elections..."

In an interview Wednesday, Sabri said, "I'll spend a million dollars. Whatever it takes to do legally." Asked whether he truly has that kind of money to spend, he said, "Of course I do." ...

During an interview, Sabri mentioned several times his property at Cedar Avenue and E. Lake Street. Schiff noted that the Planning Commission, on which he sits, recently unanimously rejected Sabri's proposal for a shopping center.

During a conversation, Sabri mentioned many times the legal troubles that his brother, Basim Sabri, has had. Basim Sabri awaits sentencing for his December federal conviction on three counts of bribery for his dealings with former City Council Member Brian Herron.

MinnConfidential also noted the Sabri connection to Zimmerman in November 2004, in a Strib article that intimated the Sabris had bribed someone else in government to assist in their development efforts. Nothing ever came of that rumor. Perhaps the FBI wants to know why. Having two raids in less than 24 hours sounds less like coincidence and more like a coordinated FBI operation. We will soon know why ...

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 8, 2005 11:38 PM

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