But the truck driver from Greenfield, about 20 miles east of Indianapolis, contends he is a victim of mistaken identity, confused with a dead twin brother who he says worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Shaaban, 53, planned to represent himself at jury selection, scheduled to begin Monday in U.S. District Court. Charges against him include acting as a foreign agent, violating sanctions against Iraq, conspiracy and witness tampering.
"My case is a political case, all charges are false," he wrote in late November to Laura Briggs, court clerk for the U.S. District of Southern Indiana. "I can't defense myself by myself but I will be forced to take this step at the end, because I will not go to trial with an attorney who will topple me."
If convicted, Shaaban faces up to 65 years in prison and more than $1.5 million in fines.
Prosecutors declined to discuss the case as they prepared for trial, but court filings show they plan to call at least two witnesses who will be disguised and identified only by pseudonyms.
One witness is a former agent in the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi intelligence service. Court records contend he met with Shaaban at the Al-Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad in November 2002 to negotiate terms of the sale of U.S. intelligence information.
An undercover FBI agent who prosecutors say met Shaaban in 2003 is also expected to testify.
Their testimony could shed light on Shaaban's background, which court records indicate is a maze of contradictions spanning a half-dozen countries.
He first told Homeland Security officials they were looking for his cousin but later said his dead twin was at fault. He has said the woman the government identifies as his wife is his sister-in-law and that the man identified as his son is his nephew.
Shaaban, who was arrested in March, told Homeland Security officials he is the child of a Lebanese mother and an Azerbaijani father. He told officials he was born in Jordan but spent considerable time in Russia, where he received a doctorate in mining.
Prosecutors have said Shaaban was trained as a spy in the former Soviet Union and, after emigrating to the U.S., legally changed his name in 1997 to Joe Brown.
Despite the name change, court documents say he used the alias Shaaban Hafed on a naturalization application in 2000 and became a U.S. citizen illegally. They allege he also illegally obtained an Indiana commercial driver's license in 1999 using the Hafed alias.
The indictment includes more than a dozen names for Shaaban.
The government alleges Shaaban traveled to Baghdad in late 2002 and agreed to sell the names of U.S. agents and operatives to Iraq for $3 million. He also allegedly offered to organize so-called "human shields" who would protect Iraqi infrastructure when the U.S. attacked, court records say.