Two residents of Toledo, Ohio, Hor I. Akl, age 37, and his spouse, Amera A. Akl, age 37, both of whom are dual citizens of the United States and Lebanon, were arrested today on charges that they conspired to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, conspired to launder money, and committed arson relating to an insurance fraud scheme. Hor Akl is also charged with two counts of bankruptcy fraud and one count of perjury, U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach announced today. The Akls were arrested this morning without incident and are expected to make their initial appearance in federal court in Toledo at 3:30 p.m. today.
According to the criminal complaint filed earlier today, from on or about Aug. 30, 2009, to the present, the Akls conspired to provide material support to Hizballah, which was designated by the Secretary of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 1997, and remains so today. According to the complaint, the Akls agreed to send money to the terrorist organization Hizballah after they were approached by a confidential informant for the FBI who claimed he worked for an anonymous donor eager to support Hizballah. The couple researched and proposed at least ten different ways in which the money could be shipped to Hizballah, the complaint alleges.
The complaint alleges that the Akls ultimately agreed to conceal approximately $500,000 in the hollow sections of a vehicle and to ship the vehicle to Lebanon, where they would remove the cash and give it to Hizballah officials on behalf of the purported anonymous donors in the United States. The Akls expected to receive a fee or commission for arranging the transfer of funds. The complaint alleges that in March 2010, Hor Akl traveled to Lebanon to make arrangements for the delivery of the funds to Hizballah. Akl allegedly returned to the United States claiming that he had met with Hizballah officials.
The complaint further alleges that, during the investigation, the Akls discussed multiple criminal violations in the past, including bulk cash smuggling of large amounts of currency to Lebanon, wire fraud, mail fraud, perjury related to bankruptcy fraud, and concealing property in a bankruptcy proceeding.
According to U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach, “This case demonstrates our continued commitment to prosecuting those who seek to aid terrorists and terrorist organizations, whether they do so from our backyards, or abroad. Furthermore, those who seek to take illegal advantage of our government, judicial and financial institutions, for their personal benefit or for the benefit of others, will not be ignored.”
C. Frank Figliuzzi, Special Agent in Charge of the Cleveland Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation 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.”
The maximum statutory penalties upon conviction are: for conspiring to provide material support to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $500,000; for money laundering conspiracy, up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000; for each of the offenses of bankruptcy fraud, and perjury, up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000; and for the arson offense, up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Justin E. Herdman, Duncan T. Brown and Thomas E. Getz and Trial Attorney S. Elisa Poteat of the National Security Division, Counterterrorism Section, following an investigation by the FBI, through its Joint Terrorism Task Force, in Toledo, Ohio, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division.
The public is reminded that a criminal complaint contains mere allegations. Defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice