A former employee of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency has pleaded guilty to charges of fraudulently obtaining US citizenship and accessing a US government computer system to unlawfully find information about her relatives and the Islamic organization Hizballah.
Nada Nadim Prouty, 37, originally from Lebanon, also pleaded guilty this week in US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to conspiracy to defraud the US government. She was accused of using her fraudulently obtained US citizenship to gain employment with the FBI and CIA, and of using her position in the FBI to check on the information held on family members connected to Hizballah, according to the US Department of Justice. The US government considers Hizballah a terrorist group.
Prouty faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a US$250,000 fine for the conspiracy charge; one year in prison and a US$100,000 fine for the unauthorized computer access charge; and 10 years in prison and a US$250,000 fine for the naturalization charge.
Prouty "engaged in a pattern of deceit to secure US citizenship, to gain employment in the intelligence community, and to obtain and exploit her access to sensitive counterterrorism intelligence," Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein said in a statement.
Prouty first entered the US from Lebanon in June 1989, on a one-year, non-immigrant student visa, according to court documents. After her visa expired she remained in Michigan, living with her sister. As a way to remain in the US, Prouty later offered money to an unemployed US citizen to marry her, and on August 9, 1990, she was married.
Prouty never lived with her fraudulent husband, but continued to live with her sister, the DOJ said.
Prouty later submitted a series of fraudulent documents to federal immigration officials to verify the validity of the fraudulent marriage in order to obtain US citizenship, the DOJ said. She was granted citizenship in August 1994, and the following year, she filed for a divorce.
Between May 1992 and November 1994, Prouty was twice employed as a waitress and hostess at La Shish, a chain of Middle Eastern restaurants in Detroit that was owned by Talal Khalil Chahine. During this time, Chahine wrote a letter for submission into Prouty's immigration file attesting to the validity of Prouty's false marriage.
Chahine is currently a fugitive believed to be in Lebanon, the DOJ said. He, along with Prouty's sister, Elfat El Aouar, and others were charged in 2006 in the Eastern District of Michigan with tax evasion in connection with a scheme to conceal more than US$20 million received by La Shish restaurants and to route funds to Lebanon.
Last month, Chahine and others were also charged in the Eastern District of Michigan in a bribery and extortion conspiracy in which federal immigration benefits were allegedly awarded to illegal aliens in exchange for money.
In April 1999, Prouty was hired as a special agent of the FBI, and she was granted a security clearance and assigned to the FBI's Washington, D.C., field office to work on a squad investigating crimes against US persons overseas. During her tenure with the FBI, Prouty was not assigned to work on investigations involving Hizballah.
In August 2000, Prouty's sister married Chahine, the owner of La Shish. A month later Prouty used the FBI's computerized Automated Case System without authorization to query her own name, her sister's name and that of her brother-in-law, the DOJ said. In June 2003, Prouty accessed the FBI system and obtained information from a national security investigation into Hizballah that was being conducted by the FBI's Detroit field office.
Prouty left the FBI and joined the CIA in June 2003. She resigned from the CIA earlier this month, and she has agreed to cooperate with the CIA on any matters the CIA says is necessary to protect US national security, the DOJ said.
"This case highlights the importance of conducting stringent and thorough background investigations," said US Attorney Stephen J. Murphy of the Eastern District of Michigan in a statement. "It's hard to imagine a greater threat than the situation where a foreign national uses fraud to attain citizenship and then, based on that fraud, insinuates herself into a sensitive position in the US government."