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Man Who Aided U.S. Probe Sentenced

He gets minimum time for helping convict ringleader of group that gave Hezbollah money.

March 20, 2003|From Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The key witness who helped the government make its case against a man convicted of aiding the Lebanon-based guerrilla group Hezbollah received a minimum sentence Wednesday.

Said Harb, 32, was sentenced to 41 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen. Harb has been in jail since 2000; with credit for good behavior, he could be released by the end of this year.

He had faced up to 51 months.

"I am especially impressed, not only with his cooperation" but also with the risk Harb took in testifying against Mohamad Hammoud, Mullen said. "This man ... has worked real hard to assist the folks of the United States."

Hammoud, 29, masterminded a scheme to ship cigarettes from North Carolina, where low taxes keep down prices, to Michigan for resale. In June, he was found guilty of illegally sending $3,500 to Hezbollah.

Harb testified that Hammoud had given him an envelope containing the money to deliver to a military commander of Hezbollah during its confrontation with Israel in southern Lebanon.

Hammoud was sentenced last month to 155 years in prison. His brother, Chawki Hammoud, who was not convicted of Hezbollah involvement, received 51 months for his conviction on other charges.

"I think it was the right decision by my client and the right decision for the United States," Harb's lawyer Chris Fialko said in court.

Several of Harb's relatives were in court for the sentencing, and his wife, Sonya Harb, spoke.

"Myself and the kids, we're struggling without him," she said.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Ken Bell, who prosecuted the Hammouds and had sought 51 months for Harb, spoke highly of him.

"I actually enjoyed the many hours we spent together," the prosecutor told Mullen. "We spent a lot of time interviewing Mr. Harb and we tried every chance we could to catch him in a lie, and never could do so."

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