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Federal contractor who hid in UAE for 20 years pleads guilty to defrauding U.S.

A Syrian-American dual citizen who had been living in the United Arab Emirates for more than 20 years to avoid extradition to the U.S. pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Thursday, the Justice Department announced.

Ammar Kanaan, a former engineering contractor for the Federal Highway Administration, fled the U.S. in 1998. 

While doing work for the Federal Highway Administration between 1993 and 1998, Kanaan and other contractors illegally sent cash orders and payments to an agency official. The official then allowed them to submit false invoices for reimbursement, according to court documents.

After being interviewed by federal agents in 1998, Kanaan fled the country, first to Syria and then to the UAE, successfully fighting off extradition in both countries. He was arrested in August by Italian law enforcement while traveling in that country, and was extradited to the U.S. on Jan. 5.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and to pay gratuities. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 19 and faces a maximum of five years in prison.

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