An illegal immigrant from Lebanon was sentenced in the United States Tuesday to 4 1/2 years in prison for conspiring to raise money for the Lebanese terror group Hizbullah. Mahmoud Youssef Kourani, 34, pleaded guilty in March to conspiring to support a terrorist organization. Kourani was accused of hosting fund-raising meetings at his home in suburban Detroit in 2002, at which a Hizbullah representative spoke. He faced up to 15 years but a plea deal called for him to receive no more than five. Fighter, recruiter, fundraiser According to federal prosecutors, Kourani was a fighter, recruiter and fundraiser for Hizbullah and operated in both Lebanon and the United States. Prosecutors said his brother, Haidar, was chief of military security for the group in southern Lebanon and directed Kourani's U.S. activities. "Hizbullah pays attention to these kinds of cases," prosecutor Kenneth Chadwell said. "The message, your honor, should be, 'Don't come here.'" Breaking into tears several times, Kourani apologized for his actions and asked to be allowed to return as soon as possible to his family in Lebanon. "I didn't mean to commit any crime," he told the judge through an Arabic translator, saying he believed the money was going to help orphans. "I ask your honor to let me go and see my children." Kourani said one of his sons has bone cancer and the other a heart condition. Visa to Mexico, then to U.S. The government said Kourani paid a Mexican consular official in Beirut USD 3,000 for a visa to enter Mexico, then sneaked across the U.S.-Mexican border in 2001 and settled in Dearborn, the center of Michigan's Arab-American community of about 300,000. Chadwell said money Hizbullah raises for any purpose, including charity, helps support its terrorist activities, which have included the killing of 241 Marines in the bombing of their barracks in Beirut in 1983 and attacks on two U.S. embassy buildings. Kourani has been in custody since May 2003, when federal agents searched his home and charged him with harboring an illegal immigrant. Kourani pleaded guilty, served six months in a federal prison and was awaiting deportation in an immigration facility when he was indicted last year on the terror charge.