Westbrook brothers charged in grocery welfare fraud

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight welfare fraud charges were brought against Westbrook brothers; we meet the guy who may be Maine’s greatest hero; and the Nova Scotia ferry will run for two additional weeks.

What we’re talking about

Charges brought in alleged grocery welfare fraud — BDN Portland’s Jake Bleiberg reports:

Brothers who owned and worked at a Portland grocery have been charged with running a welfare fraud out the store that may have cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

Following an investigation by the FBI and other federal and state agencies, Ali Ratib Daham, 40, and Abdulkareem Daham, 21, were charged Tuesday with conspiring to defraud the United States through their operation of Ahram Halal Market on Forest Avenue. The older brother, who was the owner of the store, also was charged with trafficking in welfare vouchers, wire fraud, money laundering and theft of government funds.  

This guy just couldn’t stop being a hero — Marcus Hanna was keeper of the twin lighthouses in Cape Elizabeth. He won the Life-Saving Service’s highest honor for a daring rescue during a cutting nor’easter in 1885. A decade later, Congress gave him a belated Medal of Honor for an even more heroic feat during the Civil War. He’s the only person to win both awards for valor. — Troy R. Bennett

Tyson seeks to takeover Portland chicken plant Multinational meat giant Tyson Foods will seek to buy AdvancePierre, the company which includes the former Barber Foods plant in Portland, for $4.2 billion. AdvancePierre operates a St. John Street plant, where it employs about 300 people making frozen, stuffed chickens, sandwiches and other prepared foods. Since being purchased by AdvancePierre, more than half the workers at the plant were laid off, although it remains one of the largest employers in the city. It is unclear whether new ownership would mean further changes at the Portland plant.

Tell them what you want from your bus service — Portland’s Metro “Breez” bus currently offers roundtrip express service between Portland, Yarmouth and Freeport. Now, there’s plans in the works to expand the service all the way up to Brunswick. Bigwigs want to know what you think and they’re opening the floor to comments in a series of public forums in May. — Troy R. Bennett

Voters to choose on school bonds — Last night, the Portland city council approved competing $32-million and a $64-million bond proposals to renovate some city elementary schools (as we said they would). The two measures with appear together on the November ballot, when a majority of votes will be required to approve a bond. If both proposals get more than 50 percent, whichever got more votes will be the winner. The larger bond would pay for renovations at Longfellow, Reiche Presumpscot, and Lyseth elementary schools, while the smaller one would fund work at only the latter two schools. Proponents of the smaller bond want to seek state funding to renovate Longfellow and Reiche. The compromise ends a standoff over school renovation funding on the council but is only the start of what is likely to be a feisty campaign to get one or the other bond passed.

City extends Nova Scotia ferry season — The city council agreed Monday to extend the season of the Portland-to-Yarmouth ferry by two weeks, the Press Herald’s Randy Billings reports. The new, longer contract is expected to kick in an extra $16,600 from the ferry line that last year paid the city  $265,000 in rent, parking and fees. Under the new deal, Bay Ferries will operate The Cat high-speed ferry from May 31 to Oct. 15. The ferry’s season is set to start even as its operation has become a hot-button issue in the upcoming Nova Scotia premier election.

That was quick. — Two weeks after proposing South Portland become a so-called “sanctuary city,” the city council has backed off the position that might have invited the ire of the Trump administration. The council introduced a new measure that largely reaffirms existing police policy against biased policing or profiling, the Press Herald’s Kelley Bouchard reports. Police Chief Ed Googins urged the council to support the measure saying he couldn’t recall the last time federal immigration agents sought his department’s help in making an arrest.

Tweet of the day

From pop star JoJo, who is in Portland tonight and drinking Sebago Lake:

The Big Idea

“The champagne of Maine” — Not a big idea exactly, but we were mighty amused by Pulitzer Prize winner David Fahrenthold’s 2006 ode to Allen’s Coffee Brandy, which he reports “a Bangor newspaperman once suggested putting…on the back of Maine’s state quarter.”

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Jake Bleiberg at jbleiberg@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @JZBleiberg.

If someone forwarded you this newsletter, click here to sign up. Or just text PORTLAND to 66866. As always, like BDN Portland on Facebook for more local coverage.