Saturday, March 01, 2008

Chahine's Wife's U.S. Citizenship Revoked

There really isn't much I can think of to say about this story any more. Anyone else have any thoughts?

La Shish owner's wife sentenced for citizenship fraud

BY DAVID ASHENFELTER • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER • February 26, 2008

The wife of fugitive La Shish restaurant owner Talal Chahine was sentenced today to 90 days in prison and stripped of her U.S. citizenship for citizenship fraud in a case that tripped up an illegal immigrant who concealed her past to get into the FBI and CIA.

Elfat El Aouar, 41, of Plymouth, is to serve the sentence simultaneously with an 18-month term she received last 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.

Although Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Chadwell wanted a longer sentence -- she was facing up to 11 months under a plea agreement with the government -- U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn said he didn’t want El Aouar to serve additional time for the crime because her three young children need her. Chadwell said the government got the main thing it wanted in the case – the revocation of her citizenship.

Chadwell said federal immigration authorities probably would seek her deportation when she gets out of prison. Cohn, sitting in Detroit, sentenced her by telephone from a prison in Danbury, Conn.


El Aouar pleaded guilty last November 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 late last year — were targeted in the investigation. A former roommate, a decorated Marine Corps captain, also pleaded guilty in the case.

All of them are Lebanese immigrants.

El Aouar, who has a master’s degree in business administration, is serving time for keeping dual computerized books so her husband could carry out the tax evasion scheme. Authorities said much of the money they skimmed was sent to Lebanon, where they said Chahine has links to Hizballah. The U.S. State Department designated Hizballah a terrorist group in 1997.

Prouty, El Aouar’s sister, pleaded guilty in federal court in Detroit on Nov. 13 to obtaining her U.S. citizenship through a fraudulent marriage and parlaying it into a college education and key jobs at the FBI and CIA. She also pleaded guilty to accessing an FBI computer system she wasn’t authorized to use to find out whether she, her sister or Chahine were being investigated and to read details about a Detroit-based investigation of Hizballah.

It’s unclear what Prouty, 37, of Vienna, Va., did with the information. Authorities suspect she shared it with Chahine. A sentencing date hasn’t been set in her case.

In October, Chahine was indicted on charges that he conspired with bribing a federal immigration official in Detroit and using the relationship to extort more than $260,000 from La Shish employees from 1999 to 2003.

In December, he was indicted again on a conspiracy charge for allegedly vouching for the phony marriages the women used to obtain citizenship.

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