A Sleeper Agent Wanted to Cooperate. He Just Got 40 Years in Prison.

He was a Lebanese immigrant named Ali Kourani, and he told the F.B.I. that he was a sleeper agent for a terrorist organization. He said he was scouting targets in New York City for possible attacks, including airports and government offices, while leading a second life as a telephone salesman and family man.

The plan, he told agents, was for him to become a suicide bomber.

Over a series of five meetings, Mr. Kourani believed he was offering this and other information to the F.B.I. in exchange for leniency from the United States government and protection for his family.

But instead, the F.B.I. arrested him in June 2017 and charged him with eight counts related to terrorism. In May, a Manhattan jury convicted Mr. Kourani on all charges — largely as a result of what he had told the agents.

On Tuesday, in federal court in Manhattan, Mr. Kourani was sentenced to 40 years in prison, less than the life sentence prosecutors had sought but more than his lawyer said he deserved. In the end, he told the court that the government was “overreaching” and that his ties to the terrorist organization Hezbollah were strictly political.

Since his arrest, Mr. Kourani has maintained that many of the statements he gave the F.B.I. were false, and his lawyer has said his client was duped into cooperating with the government.

In addressing the court on Tuesday, Mr. Kourani told the judge that he was still willing to help the American government, and that law enforcement should look into the three aliases associated with Hezbollah that he had provided to the F.B.I. “I didn’t lie about that,” he said.

“It’s hard to think of a more serious offense than to engage in terrorism against the United States,” Judge Alvin Hellerstein said while delivering Mr. Kourani’s sentence.

Judge Hellerstein said that in giving the 40 years instead of life he was lumping together some of the time associated with the charges, which ranged from the provision of material support to Hezbollah to receiving military training from the terrorist organization.

But Judge Hellerstein said that in effect, he was sentencing Mr. Kourani, 35, to life in prison.

“It creates a condition where his useful life is spent in prison,” said Judge Hellerstein.

For years, Mr. Kourani, who came to the United States in 2003 and became a citizen in 2009, had lived an elaborate double life to cover his true affiliation with the Islamic Jihad Organization, or I.J.O., the Hezbollah wing responsible for counterintelligence and terrorist activities outside of Lebanon, according to prosecutors.

Mr. Kourani married a Canadian citizen, raised two children and earned degrees in biomedical engineering and business administration. (During his time in jail, they have divorced, and Mr. Kourani has not seen his children, his lawyer, Alexei Schacht, said.)

Mr. Kourani’s double life fell under scrutiny, following a traffic arrest. In November 2013, a police officer pulled him over in Queens for running a stop sign. His car was piled high with counterfeit merchandise.

He was arrested and charged with trademark counterfeiting, driving with an object obstructing vision and failing to stop at a stop sign. Soon after, the F.B.I. began investigating him.

Agents from the F.B.I. and other intelligence agencies followed Mr. Kourani in Lebanon, New York, Wisconsin and Chicago. They questioned him and his relatives about Hezbollah.

Just months after his traffic arrest, Mr. Kourani applied for a job as an intelligence analyst with the New York Police Department — a move prosecutors characterized as an attempt to salvage his cover story. Shortly after he applied, his internet browser history showed searches for how to defeat a polygraph test, according to prosecutors.

By 2015, the terrorist organization began distancing itself from Mr. Kourani, prosecutors said.

But federal agents continued investigating him. They once approached him at a Starbucks in Queens to recruit him as an informant, according to Mr. Kourani. He said he had refused multiple offers to cooperate.

But then in the summer of 2016, his wife, whose family had ties to Hezbollah, began fighting with him, “fueled by the rumor that I was an American government informant,” he said. She took the children to Canada and refused to return. Mr. Kourani said that around that same time, Hezbollah agents sprayed his family’s home in Lebanon with bullets.

At this point, Mr. Kourani was ready to cooperate. On the referral of a friend, he contacted Mark P. Denbeaux, a law professor at Seton Hall University who has represented detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

With Professor Denbeaux’s guidance, Mr. Kourani spoke with federal agents a handful of times. Mr. Kourani expected that the government would help him reunite with his family.

Mr. Denbeaux told Judge Hellerstein during a hearing before the trial that he never thought to ask for a letter promising leniency for his client.

Text messages between Mr. Kourani and Professor Denbeaux that were collected during the investigation show that Mr. Kourani was concerned that he did not have anything in writing from the F.B.I.

Prosecutors have dismissed Mr. Kourani’s tale of woe, saying that he never stopped working for Hezbollah and that he perpetually lied to law enforcement while trying to gather information about how federal investigations are conducted.

Shortly before the trial began, Mr. Kourani hired new representation.

His new lawyer, Mr. Schacht, said he expects Mr. Kourani to appeal the case next year, based largely on the admissibility of the statements he made to federal agents, as well as the judge’s instructions to the jury that such statements were legally admissible.

He said the statements had been included in the trial based on “disastrous legal advice” from his client’s former attorney.

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