CHICAGO – An Iraqi-born man who federal prosecutors say was a "sleeper agent" for Saddam Hussein's (search) spy agency was arrested Monday for allegedly lying on his application to become a U.S. citizen.
Sami Khoshaba Latchin, 57, pleaded innocent to making a false statement to immigration authorities. A federal judge ordered him held for a bail hearing Sept. 7.
Latchin's attorney declined to comment.
Latchin was "an Iraqi intelligence spy sent to this country to be a sleeper agent," with directions to "assimilate himself into our culture," Assistant U.S. Attorney James Conway said.
He is not alleged to have compromised national security, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said.
Federal authorities do not allege Latchin committed any other crimes. But "if he came here to be here and be available to the Iraqi Intelligence Service if needed, that alone we think is a threat to our national security," Fitzgerald said.
Latchin has lived in the United States for about 11 years, according to federal officials. He is a naturalized U.S. citizen living in Des Plaines, Fitzgerald said.
The indictment concerns Latchin's 1998 application for citizenship. Asked to list any organizations to which he belonged, he failed to put down Saddam's Baath Party (search), according to the indictment.
He also did not list that he had been a member of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (search), the foreign intelligence arm of the Iraqi government, and said three overseas trips he made were vacations when in fact he met with his intelligence handler, according to the indictment.
Latchin could get up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
The federal grand jury indictment was returned July 21, but Fitzgerald would not say why authorities waited more than a month to arrest Latchin. He said the FBI had been monitoring Latchin "very carefully" but would not elaborate.
He also declined to comment on why the indictment was issued nearly six years after Latchin submitted his application for citizenship.