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Feds: Ohio couple conspired to send money to Hezbollah

By Carol Cratty, CNN
  • Both suspects are dual citizens of U.S. and Lebanon
  • Prosecutors charge they conspired to send up to $1 million to Hezbollah
  • Feds say money was to come from anonymous donor who was FBI informant
  • U.S. includes Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations

(CNN) -- An Ohio couple was arrested Thursday in Toledo for allegedly plotting to send money to the terrorist organization Hezbollah in Lebanon, federal authorities said.

The United States includes Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group in Lebanon, on its list of terrorist organizations.

According to a federal criminal complaint, Hor and Amera Akl, who are dual citizens of the United States and Lebanon, were approached by an FBI informant who claimed to work for an anonymous donor wanting to support Hezbollah.

The criminal complaint says the couple suggested numerous ways to send money to Lebanon, including shipping it in appliances and sending amounts of a few thousand dollars via people making trips to Lebanon.

But the Akls allegedly settled on a plan to pack a large amount of money in hollow sections of a vehicle and ship it from the U.S. to Lebanon. The criminal complaint says the husband, Hor Akl, planned to fly to Lebanon, meet the car upon arrival and deliver the cash to Hezbollah.

The FBI says it gave $200,000 in cash to its informant Thursday, who then went to the Akl's Toledo, Ohio, home. The FBI was watching and went into the residence a short time later. According to the criminal complaint, the FBI found the Akls wearing latex gloves and preparing to pack the money into car accessories.

The court document says that during the investigation, which stretched over several months, the FBI's informant was able to make audio and video recordings of the contacts with the Akls, which were then handed over to the FBI.

In a September 2009 conversation, Hor Akl allegedly asked the FBI's informant whether the amount to be sent to Hezbollah would be $500,000 or $1 million. According to the criminal information, Akl wanted to know what percentage of the money he would receive as a fee and said if he got $300,000 or $400,000, he would stay in Lebanon and not return to the U.S.

The complaint also discusses a purported conversation that happened later in September in which Hor Akl allegedly said he knew the money "would be sent to a designated terrorist organization and used to target Israel."

Amera Akl is also said to have had numerous conversations with the FBI's informant, in which she talked about receiving a cut of the money. The complaint also alleges that in August 2009 Amera Akl told the informant, "She dreamed of dressing like Hezbollah, carrying a gun, and dying as a martyr."

The charges against the Akls, both 37 years old, include conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and conspiracy to launder money. The first charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison an a $500,000 fine; the latter charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

A court hearing was scheduled for the couple for Thursday afternoon in Ohio. It was not immediately clear whether they had retained an attorney.