DETROIT -- An illegal immigrant from Lebanon was sentenced Tuesday to 4 1/2 years in prison for conspiring to raise money for the Islamic militant group Hezbollah, which the United States has designated a terrorist group.
Mahmoud Youssef Kourani, 34, pleaded guilty in March to conspiring to support a terrorist organization. Kourani was accused of hosting fund-raising meetings at his home in suburban Detroit in 2002, at which a Hezbollah representative spoke.
He faced up to 15 years but a plea deal called for him to receive no more than five.
According to federal prosecutors, Kourani was a fighter, recruiter and fund-raiser for Hezbollah and operated in both Lebanon and the United States. Prosecutors said his brother, Haidar, was chief of military security for the group in southern Lebanon and directed Kourani's U.S. activities.
"Hezbollah pays attention to these kinds of cases," prosecutor Kenneth Chadwell said. "The message, your honor, should be, 'Don't come here.'"
Breaking into tears several times, Kourani apologized for his actions and asked to be allowed to return as soon as possible to his family in Lebanon....
The government said Kourani paid a Mexican consular official in Beirut $3,000 for a visa to enter Mexico, then sneaked across the U.S.-Mexican border in 2001 and settled in Dearborn, the center of Michigan's Arab-American community of about 300,000.
Chadwell said money Hezbollah raises for any purpose, including charity, helps to support its terrorist activities, which have included the killing of 241 Marines in the bombing of their barracks in Beirut in 1983 and attacks on two U.S. Embassy buildings....