If Monteilh’s tale did not cause the hairs on the back of your neck to stiffen, just Google his name. Like a Christmas tree, the Internet lights up with stories of him being a con man, a gold digger, something of a nut and possibly a government informant. His criminal record extends back to 1987, with charges ranging from forgery to burglary and grand theft. His Orange County rap sheet alone includes charges for 18 separate crimes allegedly committed between January 2006 and November 2007. But here is the strange part: all but two were dismissed on the same day.

Confronted with his online infamy, Monteilh claimed that after he’d been exposed, unnamed government officials spread damning stories about him on the Internet to protect the undercover surveillance program.

So how could he prove he was a government spy? He produced stapled photocopies of what he claimed was a court document that a judge in West Covina would later go on to seal. He said it was the disposition of a grand-theft-auto case in which he was found guilty. He pointed to a section on the last page that stated, beneath the sentencing part, that the Los Angeles County prosecutor asked the judge to cut short Monteilh’s probation because he is an FBI informant who an Agent Armstrong says is doing good undercover work.

The FBI's man in Irvine?
John Gilhooley
The FBI's man in Irvine?

Monteilh went on to tell me he tried to get a similar assist after he later got caught up in a crime related to an Irvine drug bust but was hung out to dry amid internal debate within the FBI over the value of the operation to infiltrate mosques. When we spoke, he said he’d just returned from 16 months behind bars. His Orange County rap sheet confirms he served 16 months in state prison on two grand-theft charges.

The dealing soon began. Monteilh said if the Weekly printed an initial story clearing his name, he would share with us his e-mails and recordings. “Uh, let me ask my editor about this,” I sheepishly said. Sensing my lack of excitement, Monteilh talked of taking his story to a larger publication and let it drop he was meeting next with Times Orange County editor Steve Marble.

When I told him it would take some time to check out his story, he suggested I contact Hussam Ayloush, CAIR’s executive director in Anaheim, which I later did. “I have never trusted Monteilh,” Ayloush told me. “He is very suspicious.”

It was getting mighty squishy. Then came Niazi’s arrest. I hastily contacted the FBI about Monteilh’s claims. “The FBI is not commenting,” replied bureau spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.

As for his claim of having been a chaplain, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department had no employee records for a Craig Monteilh. The city jail keeps separate records on chaplains, but badges are retrieved and records are generally purged once the volunteers leave Religious Services.

Before we parted that morning in Irvine, the ex-con conman “convert” motioned toward the parking lot and said, “They’re listening to all this, you know?”

There go those hairs on the back of the neck again.

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