Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Federal prosecutors say a New Jersey man has criminally supported the Hezbollah terror group by scouting potential attack sites like airports, bridges and New York City's iconic Times Square.
The Justice Department said prosecutors charged Alexei Saab with nine terror-related counts -- including unlawful procurement of citizenship to facilitate an act of international terrorism, which alone carries a maximum sentence of 25 years.
Saab, 42, was arrested July 9 on a criminal complaint and is being held at a federal prison in Manhattan.
The Morristown, N.J., resident was also charged with providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy to provide material support and receiving military-type training from a foreign terrorist group.
Prosecutors said the Lebanese-born Saab was a member of Hezbollah and received group training before he emigrated to the United States in 2000. Authorities said he obtained U.S. citizenship in 2008 after falsely claiming he'd never been a member of a terrorist organization.
Saab, according to the complaint, acted as an operative for the Islamic Jihad Organization and surveilled potential plot locations in New York City -- including Times Square, United Nations headquarters, the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building. For each location, prosecutors said, Saab provided details and photographs to Hezbollah.
Investigators say Saab also provided similar intelligence on other large cities, including Washington, D.C., and Istanbul, Turkey.
"Even though Saab was a naturalized American citizen, his true allegiance was to Hezbollah, the terrorist organization responsible for decades of terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds, including U.S. citizens and military personnel," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. "Thankfully, Saab is now in federal custody, and faces significant prison time for his alleged crimes."
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said Saab was a part of persistent and sophisticated efforts by insurgent terror groups to identify vulnerabilities and gather details that could help facilitate future attacks in the United States.
Federal prison records show Saab is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.