TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - A federal judge sentenced a Toledo mom to more than three years in prison Wednesday afternoon after she plotted to send more than $500,000 to the terrorist group Hezbollah.
During sentencing, the judge said Amera Akl's case needs to be made an example for others.
"She is remorseful. She went into this situation not intending to stand here today," said Akl's attorney Stanford Schulman.
Akl, a mother of three, was arrested with her husband last year and apologized to her family in court through tears.
The case started in 2009, when Akl was approached by an FBI informant. He told Akl he knew of donors who wanted to give large amounts of money to a good cause. Akl responded by asking if they wanted to give their money to Hezbollah. She said she could ship the money but for a cut.
Schulman said the informant received money and citizenship for his help in the case. He says the informant knew Akl since he was the husband of the owner of a daycare where Akl took her kids. The informant told the government that Akl had said she'd dreamt of dressing like Hezbollah, carrying a gun and dying as a martyr.
"When you dangle a million dollars in front of someone who is a financial wreck, in order to play the game you have to play the part," Schulman said.
Schulman said his client has no connections to the group. And when federal agents raided the Akl's Toledo home last year, they found the couple trying to hide $200,000 in a vehicle they were about to ship overseas but Schulman said agents did not find any political propaganda, suspicious e-mails or websites on the group.
"She was going to keep much of the money from him and that was the scam," Schulman said.
The judge told Akl that greed is no excuse for her guilt. Akl entered a plea deal last month, reducing the maximum amount of time she could serve from 40 years to 40 months. She's now ordered to surrender herself later this summer to serve her time. After 18 months, Schulman said Akl could be released to a local halfway house for good time served. She would then be on three years of supervised release.
"The only problem is that we prefer the government not manufacture it. There is plenty of terrorism that has to be addressed and I don't know if this is the best case for it," Schulman said.
Akl herself did not answer WTOL11's questions as she walked out of the courthouse. A sentencing date for her husband Hor has not yet been set.
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