Four managers of home health care agencies in Maine were indicted by a federal grand jury this week on charges of conspiring to suppress essential workers’ wages and prevent competition during the pandemic.

Federal investigators allege that Faysal Kalayaf Manahe, Yaser Aali, Ammar Alkinani and Quasim Saesah – all Portland residents who manage individual home health agencies – made a secret pact to pay workers $15 or $16 dollars per hour, despite a higher reimbursement rate by the state meant to increase the workers’ pay to between $20.52 and $26.20 during the pandemic.

Some of their agencies had received Paycheck Protection Plan money, partly to go toward paying workers. Manahe’s company received $430,000, Aali’s company received $600,000, and Alkinani’s firm received $94,000, according to the indictment.

Investigators allege the defendants also agreed not to poach one another’s employees, and pressured other home health agencies to join the conspiracy and not to compete by offering higher wages to workers.

The investigation into the alleged wage-fixing scheme is ongoing, and more people could be charged in the future, prosecutors wrote.

Home health care workers assist people with daily tasks like dressing, bathing and eating. Their clients are often elderly or disabled or people who are otherwise unable to care for themselves.


Prosecutors allege the conspiracy took place in the spring of 2020, when America was reeling from the pandemic’s mounting death toll and the sudden disruption to the world economy.

The four managers communicated as a group using an encrypted text-messaging service to discuss terms of their illegal agreement, according to the indictment. They also met in person to discuss why they believed the wage-fixing was warranted, and developed methods for monitoring and enforcing the agreement.

In one instance, prosecutors allege, when another home health agency increased rates for workers to $17 and $18 per hour, the defendants filed complaints with MaineCare, although it’s unclear what they said in the complaints. The group then met with managers of the competing company and recruited them into the wage-fixing scheme.

The company that had increased rates allegedly proposed its own terms to enter into the scheme – in writing.

“All parties understand and agree not to solicit clients or employees from other businesses, including parties to this agreement, in return for higher pay rate to Personal Support Specialists,” the recruited company wrote, according to the indictment. “All parties agree to maintain a maximum (personal support specialist) rate of $16/hour for those with no PSS certification and a maximum PSS rate of $17/hour for those with PSS certification, effective 6/01/2020.”

The names of the companies allegedly involved were not released in the indictment, which lays out how investigators believe the conspiracy was organized. But state licensure records connected two of the defendants to the companies they run. Alkinani is the administrator of Ocean Home Health LLC of Portland, according to state records.


In an interview, Alkinani said he did complain to MaineCare about other businesses hiring away his workers, but the agency told him he could not stop employees from changing jobs or prevent clients from choosing another home health service.

Alkinani said he remembers swapping text messages with the other business administrators and he attended a meeting about the deal to standardize wages. The gathering was through a business group for new Mainers, Alkinani said.

He denied suppressing wages, saying that before the pandemic he paid $13 or $14 per hour, but increased pay to $17 and $18, depending on whether an employee has certification.

Alkinani said another businessman named Abdullah, who also runs a home health business called “Gateway,” drafted the wage agreement, but Alkinani asked if the agreement was legal and did not sign the deal.

“There was talk about that. We did ask, is that legal?” he said. “But we find out that’s against the law.”

He said he now pays his workers between $18 and $20 per hour, depending on experience.


State records show there is an agency with a name similar to the one Alkinani remembered. Gateway Community Services LLC of Portland is operated by Abdullahi Ali. In a phone interview, Ali denied any knowledge of the alleged conspiracy.

“I am not aware of what you are talking about, and I cannot respond to something I don’t know,” he said.

When asked if he hosts a business group for recent immigrants, Ali hung up.

Another company connected to the alleged scheme is Kennebec Home Health of Augusta, whose administrator is Quasim Saesah.

No one picked up at Kennebec Home Health and a message seeking an interview with Saesah was not immediately returned.

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