TOLEDO, Ohio – A married couple pleaded guilty Monday to charges that they plotted to ship money to a Mideast terrorist group, a plea deal that spares them from potential life sentences.
Hor and Amera Akl planned for a year to send up to $1 million for Hezbollah, the Lebanese group the U.S. government lists as a terrorist organization and blames for numerous attacks on Israel, federal prosecutors said.
An FBI informant provided them with $200,000 for the first shipment that was to be hidden in an SUV before they were arrested last June, the government said.
The Akls, dual citizens of the United States and Lebanon, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Hor Akl also pleaded guilty to money laundering, bankruptcy fraud and perjury charges.
In exchange, prosecutors dropped an arson charge against the husband and wife that carried a mandatory 10-year sentence. They also dropped a money laundering charge against Mrs. Akl.
Hor Akl now faces a sentence of a little more than seven years in prison, while his wife could receive up to four years. Both could have faced 30 years to life in prison if they would have been convicted on all charges at trial.
Sanford Schulman, an attorney for Amera Akl, said he wanted her to fight the charges, but understood why she agreed to plead guilty.
"I'd probably take the deal myself," he said. "I don't know if they caught the bad guy today, but they got what they wanted."
The plea agreement required both to plead guilty. Hor Akl's attorney, David Doughten, said it was a fair deal.
Investigators built the case using telephone recordings and an informant, said Justin Herdman, an assistant U.S. attorney.
Hor Akl traveled to Lebanon in March 2010 to arrange the delivery of money, he said. He returned to the United States claiming that he had met with Hezbollah officials, according to court documents.
The Akls expected to make about $200,000 in fees to transfer of funds, Herdman said.
Both told U.S. District Judge James Carr in Toledo that they didn't dispute any of the government's allegations.
Amera Akl will be sentenced June 20, while a sentencing date has not been set for her husband. The couple, who have three children, remained free on bail after their pleas.
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