By Andrew Denney
Source: New York Post
A former Uggs salesman with a rocky marriage has been found guilty of working as a “sleeper” agent for an arm of Hezbollah while living in the Bronx — helping the terror group prepare for attacks on New York City.
After less than a day of deliberations, a Manhattan federal jury found Bronx resident Ali Kourani, 34, guilty on eight counts that included providing support to Hezbollah, which carries up to life in prison.
Kourani, looking business casual in a rumpled white dress shirt and dark pants, sat motionless as the jury of eight women and four men rendered its verdict following a weeklong trial. He was hauled in on the charges in 2017 after he spilled his guts to the feds with hopes of becoming an informant — rather than a convicted felon facing a potential life sentence.
Kourani was born in Lebanon and immigrated to the United States legally in 2003, traveling back to Lebanon frequently in the years that followed. He was recruited into the Islamic Jihad Organization, an arm of Hezbollah, in 2008, and soon thereafter began working as a sleeper agent for the group, conducting surveillance on New York City airports and military facilities.
Among his surveillance targets were a Secret Service facility in Brooklyn and two military sites in Manhattan, as well as 26 Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan, which houses the FBI’s New York headquarters.
During this time Kourani also traveled to Lebanon to receive firearms and combat training.
But in 2016, during a trip to Lebanon, Kourani says members of Hezbollah fired bullets at his family’s home, and he decided to cooperate with the feds in exchange for financial support and immigration benefits for his relatives.
He met with two FBI agents five times at Seton Hall University School of Law with a defense attorney present, which prosecutors say amounted to five separate confessions. Prosecutors have also maintained that the agents never made any promises that Kourani wouldn’t face consequences himself.
His lawyer Alexei Schact said that he intends to appeal the ruling on the grounds that Kourani was lured into making statements to the agents based on “false statements” and thus his comments shouldn’t have been presented to the jury.
Judge Alvin Hellerstein set a Sept. 27 sentencing date.
“Mr. Kournai, I don’t know what the future will hold,” Hellerstein said as Kourani was led out of the courtroom.