Man loses citizenship for ties to Hezbollah
SAN ANTONIO — A San Antonio man was sentenced Monday to five years in prison and stripped of his U.S. citizenship for lying about his prior affiliation with Hezbollah.
Wissam Allouche, 46, said nothing at his sentencing while his lawyers said they plan to appeal. Allouche has been adamant that he is innocent. Prosecutors claim that in the 1980s, Allouche was the commander of the now-defunct militia group known as Amal in his native Lebanon and had sway over fighters with Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist group by the U.S.
Under the recommended sentencing guidelines, Allouche faced six months to 12 months behind bars, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Roomberg successfully argued for a stiffer sentence.
Over the objections of Allouche’s lawyer, Cynthia Orr, Senior U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, a former member of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, gave Allouche five years in prison. He also invalidated the American citizenship Allouche got after marrying a U.S. Army officer and moving here. Army Lt. Col. Jennifer Danko divorced him after initially withholding from superiors what she knew about his past.
Orr argued that Allouche, a contract translator who was at one time imbedded with U.S. troops, helped them as they fought the enemy in Iraq. Orr said Allouche has not been involved in terrorism but noted that his habit of embellishing his background is what got the government on his tail.
Roomberg countered that Allouche could have gotten access to sensitive information, noting trial testimony showed Allouche donned a uniform to impersonate a U.S. Army major and presented false credentials to get access to at least one San Antonio military base.
“The only ... army he fought with is Hezbollah,” Roomberg told the judge. “He never fought for the U.S.”
At trial, prosecutors also said Allouche is a Hezbollah sympathizer who hung the group’s flag in his garage, had it as his computer’s screensaver, was on the website for AlManar — Hezbollah’s TV station — so much that he bookmarked it, and had a DVD of Al-Manar — “a piece of terrorist propaganda” — in his home.
In February, jurors found Allouche guilty of falsely claiming he was still living with Danko so he could get U.S. citizenship. He also was convicted of withholding his prior membership in the Amal militia as he sought a national security clearance for more contract work with the Defense Department as a linguist.