An Iraqi-born man was arrested yesterday for allegedly lying on his application to become a naturalized U.S. citizen and failing to disclose that he was a member of the former Iraqi intelligence service.
Sami Khoshaba Latchin, 57, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Chicago to making false statements to immigration officials in July 1999.
The charges relate to his application for citizenship, on which he failed to include Saddam Hussein's Baath Party when asked to list organizations to which he belonged, according to the indictment.
He also did not disclose that he had been a member of the Iraqi intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, for five years before July 22, 1999, and he told immigration authorities that three overseas trips he made between 1994 and 1997 were vacations. The indictment alleges that he took the trips abroad to meet his handler and receive payment for his services.
Latchin, who was born in Dohuk, Iraq, and has lived in the United States for about 11 years, is not alleged to have compromised national security, U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a statement.
He was "an Iraqi intelligence spy sent to this country to be a sleeper agent," with instructions to "assimilate himself into our culture," Assistant U.S. Attorney James M. Conway said after the hearing, the Associated Press reported.
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago, declined to discuss why Latchin was being arrested five years after making the alleged false statements. But he said shared intelligence had led to the arrest.
"A root of this investigation was the sharing of intelligence files with criminal law enforcement agents and prosecutors based on FBI directives that agents should review intelligence files," Samborn said.
Latchin faces as long as 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted. A federal judge ordered him detained until a bond hearing Sept. 7.