A Toledo woman facing federal charges of aiding a terrorist organization as well as engaging in several fraudulent schemes will be released on a $750,000 bond and be placed on house arrest while her husband remains in custody.
Amera Akl, 37, was granted release after a lengthy hearing yesterday before Magistrate Vernelis Armstrong. Her husband, Hor Akl, also 37, withdrew his request for release and will remain in federal custody.
The couple are charged in a 36-page indictment filed in U.S. District Court Monday. In the indictment are six counts including allegations that the couple "did knowingly combine, conspire, and agree" to aid the terrorist group Hezbollah.
The couple entered separate pleas of not guilty to the charges yesterday.
Magistrate Armstrong reviewed the allegations contained in the indictment during the nearly two-hour hearing yesterday. In particular, she reviewed the 30 pages of the first count that alleged the couple engaged in activity from Aug. 30, 2009, to the present that helped send money and material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Among the allegations were that Mr. Akl traveled to Lebanon in early March to meet with a "high-level Hezbollah leader" to create a plan in which money would be concealed within appliances and sent overseas.
According to the indictment, both Akls are named in three of the six charges. Mr. Akl was named individually on three.
The couple are charged with conspiracy and interstate commerce in support of terrorism as well as fraudulently collecting an insurance claim on a vehicle to which they allegedly intentionally set fire. In that count, the couple are charged with collecting $17,296 from a fraudulent insurance claim in early 2002 after they allegedly set a vehicle on fire.
Mr. Akl is charged individually with defrauding creditors during a bankruptcy claim, making false statements under oath, and fraudulently transferring or concealing property.
If convicted on all the charges, Mr. Akl faces a maximum penalty of 60 years in prison. His wife faces a maximum of up to 45 years in prison.
Magistrate Armstrong noted that Mrs. Akl's bond would be met with the posting of six individual properties by family members. The judge then warned Mrs. Akl that if she fails to follow the court's orders, several of her family members - including an uncle, brother-in-law, and cousin - would forfeit their homes and commercial property to the government.
"Don't disappoint them," Magistrate Armstrong told Mrs. Akl. "They have shown great faith and confidence in you to show that you are law-abiding. Don't disappoint them."
As conditions of her release, Mrs. Akl must surrender her American passport, cannot contact the Lebanese consulate to make travel arrangements, and must be in the company of a third-party custodian - either her mother or sister - at all times.
She will also be forbidden from leaving her home without permission, so the judge warned her that she would not be able to attend activities involving her three minor children.
Detroit attorney Sandford Schulman, who was retained by the family to represent Mrs. Akl, said that because of the necessary paperwork involved, his client is not likely to be released until Friday. He declined to comment on behalf of nearly 30 family members and supporters who attended the hearing.
Mr. Akl's court-appointed attorney, Jeffrey Helmick of Toledo, declined to comment after the hearing.
Federal prosecutors told Magistrate Armstrong that they anticipate being able to share most of the government's case with defense attorneys within a few weeks.