The wife of fugitive La Shish restaurant owner Talal Chahine pleaded guilty Wednesday to citizenship fraud, the latest casualty in a widening federal investigation that snagged an illegal immigrant who concealed her past to get into the FBI and CIA.
Elfat El Aouar, 40, of Plymouth pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Detroit to charges that she entered into a sham marriage in 1990 so she could remain in the United States and eventually become a U.S. citizen. The fraudulent marriage took place before she married Chahine.
Two of her sisters—including Nada Nadim Prouty, the former FBI agent and CIA operative who pleaded guilty two weeks ago—have been targeted in the investigation. And a former roommate, a decorated Marine Corps captain, also is being investigated.
All of them are Lebanese immigrants. Most will be stripped of their citizenship and face possible deportation.
Under the terms of a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, El Aouar also faces 11 months in prison.
The sentence would be served simultaneously with an 18-month term she received in May for helping Chahine, 55, evade $6.9 million in federal income taxes from 2001 to 2005 on his Dearborn-based La Shish restaurant chain. He fled to Lebanon in September 2005 to avoid prosecution.
El Aouar, who has a master’s degree in business administration, kept dual computerized books so her husband could carry out the scheme, authorities said. They said much of the money was sent to Lebanon, where Chahine has links to Hizballah, authorities said. The U.S. State Department designated Hizballah a terrorist group in 1997.
In May, a third sister, Dr. Rula Nadim El Aouar, 36, of Dearborn Heights was charged in Detroit with naturalization fraud. Like her sisters, the government said she arranged a fraudulent marriage to stay in the United States after her visa expired in 1992. The charges were dismissed in September pending further investigation, that could lead to new charges. Plea negotiations are under way, which might enable her to avoid criminal charges but give up her citizenship.
The fourth woman in jeopardy of losing her citizenship is Marine Capt. Samar Khalil Nabbou Spinelli, 39, who recently served two tours of duty in Iraq.
Court documents said she, Prouty and Elfat El Aouar lived together in Taylor in the late 1980s and early 1990s and hired U.S. citizens to marry them, but they never consummated the marriages or lived with the men and eventually divorced them.
Spinelli and Prouty married brothers John Paul and Christopher Deladurantaye. Christopher Deladurantaye’s current wife told the Free Press that her husband never received payment, which was a few hundred dollars.
Court documents said Elfat El Aouar married Gordon Wymer and that Rula Nadim El Aouar married Timojin Steven Pruett.
“Like the marriages and immigration file submissions, the divorces were coordinated, timed and scripted, utilizing the same mailing address and the same attorney,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Chadwell said in court documents Wednesday.
Court papers said the women vouched for one another to get citizenship and government jobs. Elfat El Aouar served as a character reference for Prouty to get her FBI job, and Spinelli told an agent that she knew of nothing in Prouty’s background that would negatively affect Prouty’s character to work for the agency, court papers said.
[Editors Note: An earler, related AR News story can be read here.]
The number of bogus marriages that were prevented from going through by local authorities across Belgium will have risen by some 70 percent by the end of this year. The local municipal authorities, who are responsible for the registration of births, deaths and marriages in Belgium, refused to marry 5,474 couples during 2006.
However, according to the Federal Immigration and Asylum Service 7,771 suspect marriages were thwarted during the first ten months of this year. This is likely to have topped 9,300 by the end of December, a rise of around 70 percent on the figures for 2006.
According to a report in the daily ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ the vast majority (62 percent) of those wanting to marry in order to get a residence permit came from Morocco.
A further 12 percent of bonus partners came from Turkey and 8 percent from Algeria. Most prevalent in big cities, 654 bogus marriages were thwarted in Antwerp alone The Federal Immigration and Asylum Service says that local authorities in the big cities are especially aware of the problem of bogus marriages.
Antwerp topped the list with 654 bogus marriages; Ghent had 503, Liège 380 and Charleroi 482.
Some municipalities in Greater Brussels also report high levels of bogus marriage attempts.
The City of Brussels reported 539 cases, Anderlecht 503 and Sint-Jans Molenbeek 248.