New Jersey man arrested for allegedly spying for Hezbollah: Feds

Alexei Saab trained in Lebanon and became a U.S. citizen in 2008.

September 19, 2019, 5:08 PM

A New Jersey man was indicted Thursday on charges he supported Hezbollah by scouting possible targets for an attack.

Alexei Saab began training with Hezbollah operatives overseas and surveilled multiple locations in the U.S., the FBI said.

According to the indictment, Saab joined Hezbollah in 1996 in Lebanon where he observed and reported on the movements of Israeli troops. He trained to handle and fire an AK-47, an M16 and other weapons. He also was trained to construct explosive devices, with the federal records showing diagrams of bombs he had built.

Saab entered the U.S. in 2000 and applied for citizenship in 2005. He became a naturalized citizen three years later.

PHOTO: In this Aug. 23, 2019, file photo pedestrians pass the New York Stock Exchange in New York.
In this Aug. 23, 2019, file photo pedestrians pass the New York Stock Exchange in New York.
Frank Franklin Ii/AP, File

Federal prosecutors said he continued to receive training in Lebanon and surveilled "dozens" of locations in New York City, including the New York Stock Exchange, U.N. building, Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center and local airports, tunnels and bridges.

"In particular, SAAB focused on the structural weaknesses of locations he surveilled in order to determine how a future attack could cause the most destruction. SAAB’s reporting to the IJO (Islamic Jihad Organization) included the materials used to construct a particular target, how close in proximity one could get to a target, and site weaknesses or 'soft spots' that the IJO could exploit if it attacked a target in the future," court records said.

Saab also conducted similar scouting operations in Washington, D.C., and Boston, among other cities. Those targets included Fenway Park and the Prudential Center in Boston and the U.S. Capitol and Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

Saab, 42, of Morristown, New Jersey, is charged with providing material support to a terror organization, receipt of military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, unlawful procurement or naturalization to facilitate an act of international terrorism, among other offenses.

The unlawful naturalization charge stems from a phony marriage, with federal authorities saying Saab testified the marriage "was not for the purpose of procuring an immigration benefit."

The complaint also outlines Saab's attempts to murder an Israeli spy in Lebanon in 2003 and 2005. He even approached the man's vehicle and attempted to shoot into the driver's seat, but the gun did not fire.