Ohio couple accused of conspiring to provide thousands of dollars to Mideast terrorist group
TOLEDO, Ohio – TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A couple were arrested Thursday on charges they conspired to provide thousands of dollars to a Mideast terrorist group, federal authorities said.
Hor Akl and his wife, Amera Akl, were taken into custody after an FBI informant provided them with $200,000 in cash, which they were preparing to hide in a vehicle that was to be shipped to Lebanon, prosecutors said.
The Akls planned to conceal up to $500,000 so the money could be given to Hezbollah on behalf of anonymous donors in the United States, a court complaint said.
The U.S. government lists Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and blames it for numerous attacks on Israel. Hezbollah has been trying to reinvent itself as a more conventional political movement in Lebanon.
The Akls, both 37 years old, face numerous charges, including conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of up 15 years in prison and a fine of $500,000 upon conviction.
Telephone messages seeking comment were left Thursday at the office of the public defender assigned to the case and at the home of the Akls, who will remain in custody until a detention hearing Tuesday.
Prosecutors said Hor Akl traveled to Lebanon in March to arrange the delivery of money. He returned to the United States claiming that he had met with Hezbollah officials, the complaint said.
The Akls expected to receive a fee or commission for arranging the transfer of funds, prosecutors said.
"Those who willfully work to fund terror with U.S. dollars must understand that the FBI works even harder to ensure that they fail," said C. Frank Figliuzzi, a special agent in charge of the FBI's Cleveland office.
The Akls are dual citizens of the United States and Lebanon, the complaint said.
Hor Akl works at a Toledo bar with his brother-in-law. He told the FBI informant that his brother-in-law, who's unnamed in the complaint, operated a Lebanon recreation club used frequently by Hezbollah to conduct meetings, prosecutors said.
Authorities have not said whether more charges are expected in the case.