Somali nationals Ahmed Muse Salad, a/k/a “Afmagalo,” 27, Abukar Osman Beyle, 33, and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar, 31, who were previously found guilty of piracy, murder within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, violence against maritime navigation, conspiracy to commit violence against maritime navigation resulting in death, kidnapping resulting in death, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, hostage taking resulting in death, conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death and multiple firearms offenses, were sentenced this week. Salad, Beyle and Abrar were all sentenced to 21 life sentences, 19 consecutive life sentences and two concurrent life sentences, and 30 years consecutive, for their role in the February 22, 2011, murder of four Americans aboard the sailing vessel Quest. The victims included: Scott Underwood Adam, Jean Savage Adam, Phyllis Patricia Macay, and Robert Campbell Riggle.
Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) of the FBI’s New York Field Office; Royce E. Curtin, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office, and Charles T. May, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Norfolk Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by Chief United States District Court Judge Rebecca Beach Smith.
“These defendants, in violation of U.S. and international law, commandeered an American-flagged sailing vessel, refused to release the hostages to the Navy, and brutally murdered the four Americans on board,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Boente. “The multiple, consecutive life sentences imposed today send a clear message that piracy, hostage-taking, and murder on the high seas will not be tolerated.”
Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos said, “The sad fact about this case is that four Americans are dead because of the actions taken by the defendants and their associates in the form of modern-day piracy. On a fateful day in February 2011, they boarded the sailing vessel Quest with the goal of using violence to get monetary gains. Today’s life sentences provide a vigorous deterrent to armed bandits roaming our seas. The FBI remains vigilant in our responsibility to bring these pirates to justice.”
Charles T. May, Special Agent in Charge Charles T. May said, "NCIS worked closely with our uniformed partners in the Navy, the FBI, and the United States Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of Virginia in bringing these Somali pirates to justice for their senseless kidnapping and murder of four American citizens. Piracy and other transnational crimes such as narcoterrorism and human trafficking represent global threats to maritime security. NCIS, with our unique mission, is especially well-suited to investigating acts of piracy on the high seas, and we will continue to work with our U.S. and foreign law enforcement partners and prosecutorial entities from the U.S. and foreign nations to eradicate this global menace. "
Salad, Beyle and Abrar, were indicted in a 26-count indictment on July 8, 2011 and were found guilty by a federal jury of all 26 counts on July 8, 2013. According to court records and evidence at trial, Salad, Beyle and Abrar, along with coconspirators, gained control of the Quest while armed with firearms and a rocket-propelled grenade and took the four Americans hostage on February 18, 2011. Their plan was to take the hostages to Somalia, where they and their additional coconspirators in Somalia could commence ransom negotiations. While they sailed toward Somalia, they took turns standing armed guard over the hostages; at the same time, United States Navy ships headed towards the Quest to aid the hostages and attempt to secure their safe release.
On February 22, 2011, without provocation and before the hostages could be rescued by members of the military, a coconspirator fired an RPG in the general direction of the USS Sterett. Witnesses testified that sustained firing came from the Quest and that glass could be seen breaking on the starboard side of the Quest. Witnesses also testified that Salad, Beyle, and Abrar, were the shooters and responsible for the deaths of Scott Adam, Jean Adam, Phyllis Macay, and Robert Riggle. After the gunfire died down, the Navy dispatched SEALS to the Quest. The pirates aboard the Quest began surrendering and some were seen throwing AK-47 rifles into the water.
This case was investigated by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Assistant United States Attorneys Benjamin L. Hatch, Joseph DePadilla and Brian J. Samuels prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.