A Marine Corps officer from Michigan pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit citizenship and passport fraud in a case related to a similar plea in November by FBI agent Nada Nadim Prouty.
Prouty entered her own guilty plea Nov. 13 to charges of fraudulently obtaining her citizenship, and using her illegally acquired status to attain employment with both the FBI and CIA. Now Samar Khalil Spinelli, 39, admitted she conspired with Prouty and Elfat El Aouar to commit the immigration-related frauds. El Aouar is the wife of Michigan restaurateur Talal Chahine, who is wanted for tax evasion in connection with a scheme to conceal more than $20 million in cash. Some of that money allegedly was funneled to Hizballah.
Chahine owns a series of popular restaurants in Michigan called "La Shish."
This is the third guilty plea in the case. El Aouar pleaded guilty last week to entering into her own sham marriage for immigration purposes in 1990 before she married Chahine. El Aouar is Prouty's sister.
According to her plea agreement, Spinelli came to the U.S. from Lebanon in 1989 on a student visa. A year later, she married a St. Clair Shores, Mich. man to obtain permanent U.S. residency. Spinelli paid Jean Paul Deladurantaye to marry her, but they never lived together or had any real relationship, the agreement said. Spinelli did become a citizen, however, then filed for divorce in August 1999. The divorce papers claimed Spinelli and Deladurantaye had "lived and cohabited together as husband and wife."
In fact, Spinelli, originally named Samar Khalil Nabbouh, lived with Prouty during her marriage.
Spinelli then arranged for Prouty to have her own sham marriage with Deladurantaye's brother Chris. "Spinelli and Prouty were thus technically sisters-in-law through dual fraudulent marriages, while continuing to reside together in Taylor, Michigan," a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit said.
As a citizen, Spinelli signed up as a commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps in 1997. While in training at the Marine Corps Basic School in Quantico, Va., Spinelli helped Prouty's application to join the FBI by providing a reference. This is considered fraudulent because Spinelli failed to mention the sham marriage, which would have ruled Prouty out of the FBI.
Spinelli, now a Marine captain, was stationed in Japan and in her second tour of combat in Iraq, when she was pulled out to answer the fraud accusations.
Prouty also worked at the CIA and used FBI computers to run searches on herself, Al Aouar and Chahine - her sister and her brother in law - without consent.
The crimes carry a maximum five year prison sentence. Guidelines indicate Spinelli could face 6 to 12 months in prison.