Hor and Amera Akl. Photo by The Toledo Blade.
An Ohio couple arrested in June 2010 on numerous terror-related charges reached a plea deal on Monday with federal prosecutors that will spare them from the possibility of serving life in prison. Hor and Amera Akl, both dual citizens of the US and Lebanon, are accused of attempting to provide financial support to the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah. Yesterday morning, the couple withdrew their initial “not-guilty” pleas and pled guilty to a total of six charges between the two.
Hor Akl entered guilty pleas to charges of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, two counts of bankruptcy fraud, perjury, and violation of money laundering statutes. His wife Amera Akl pled guilty to one county of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. The conspiracy charges carry up to 15 years, but neither of the accused are expected to serve more than 10 years under the plea deal.
On Aug. 30, 2009, Amera Akl stated to an FBI confidential informant that she could facilitate the transfer of funds from the US to Lebanon with the intention of supporting Hezbollah’s military actions and the families of Hezbollah fighters. Shortly after Sept. 2, 2009, Hor Akl also spoke with the same informant about the possibility of securing the transfer of funds to support Hezbollah. For nearly a year after, the three had multiple conversations, many of which were recorded by the informant, on various ways to financially support the terror organization. Many of these recorded conversations revealed the couple’s commitment and ties to Hezbollah. The informant recorded Amera Akl saying that she “dreamed of dressing like Hezballah, carrying a gun and dying as a martyr.” Hor Akl was recorded numerous times boasting of his ties to the terror group and its representatives in Lebanon, going so far as to say that Hezbollah had stored “artillery, firearms, and rockets” in Hor’s family home in Lebanon.
Many methods of transferring money to Hezbollah were discussed between the two defendants and the confidential informant, including concealing the money in appliances such as refrigerators to be shipped to Hezbollah contacts in Lebanon. The couple revealed that they had recently delivered money personally to representatives of the terror group by hiding cash in magazines and on their persons. They were familiar with reporting requirements for carrying cash out of the country, as well as the requirements for money transfers via Western Union.
They settled on concealing large sums of cash inside a vehicle to be shipped the Lebanon. Hor Akl would travel beforehand to Lebanon to identify names, phone numbers, and other information to those who would be receiving the funds. Reports are conflicting over exactly how much Hor and Amera planned to send abroad, but the consensus is that somewhere in between $500,000 and $1,000,000 dollars would go to Hezbollah. The court document states that Hor expected to receive a fee of 30 percent of the amount going to the terror group.
On Jan. 28, 2010, the confidential source informed the couple that almost $1 million was in a bank account for transferral. Hor Akl responded by telling the informant that it was a “done deal.” Hor traveled to Lebanon in March 2010, and said he met with representatives of Hezbollah there to arrange the delivery of the cash. Receipt of the cash by Hezbollah was to be signaled by code words on a Hezbollah-controlled website.
On June 3, 2010, the FBI informant provided the Hor and Amera with $200,000 at their home in Toledo, with the promise that more would be delivered later that day. The couple were then seen by the FBI preparing the cash to be concealed into the Chevy Trailblazer they planned to send to Lebanon and were arrested shortly after. The couple face sentencing later this year.
US Attorney Steven Dettelbach’s statement highlighted the signifcant role that external financial support plays in the operations of terrorist groups. “Money is the lifeblood of terrorist organizations, and stopping the flow is a key component to choking off these organizations.” He observed: “This case demonstrates the continued effort by the FBI and our Joint Terrorism Task Forces to deny financing and support to those terrorist organizations that present a threat to the United States.”
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