By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Muslim groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American Muslim Task force on Civil Rights and Elections have been working to provide the FBI information about potential terrorist actions on U.S. soil. But after the bureau’s relationship with Monteilh became public, both groups called for Muslim Americans to consider calling off any outreach efforts with the government. As the outrage spread, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hauled FBI Director Robert Mueller to Capitol Hill to explain his bureau’s policy with regard to spying on mosques.
“We do not focus on institutions; we focus on individuals,” a defensive Mueller responded at the March 25 hearing, adding somewhat optimistically that he fully expected the controversy to blow over. The Muslim community, he insisted, “has been tremendously supportive and worked very closely with [the FBI] in a number of instances around the country.” Meanwhile, despite Monteilh’s claim that he’s a hero who helped thwart advanced-stage terrorist plots in Orange County, the FBI hasn’t arrested anyone except Niazi, who claims that the bureau tried to turn him into an informant, threatening that if he didn’t cooperate, they’d turn his life into a “living hell.”
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Roughly a year before his FBI handlers apparently began to doubt him, someone else was starting to experience a sinking feeling about Craig Monteilh. On the evening of Saturday, Aug. 5, 2006, "Danielle"—she asked to be identified by a pseudonym—was working out at a 24 Hour Fitness Center in Irvine when she saw Monteilh pedaling away on an exercise bike. She recalls that he was throwing unsubtle glances her way. “Who is this slimeball?” she thought.
After a few minutes, Monteilh approached her with a friendly smile and inquired why a nice young lady like her was alone at such a late hour. “My first impression was that he was a creep,” Danielle recalls. “He wasn’t attractive to me at all. I like guys who have hair on their head.” Monteilh quickly picked up on the fact that she wasn’t receptive to his efforts at flirtation. Adopting a businesslike tone of voice, he complimented her workout regimen and explained that he was a fitness consultant and could help her achieve her goals. “You don’t need a personal trainer,” he said. “I’ll help you out for free.” When Danielle asked him for a business card, she recalls that his response seemed almost too rehearsed. “My body is my business card,” he said. “My body is my certification.”
Over the next hour, Monteilh explained how he could help Danielle. As a fitness consultant, he had special access to health supplements such as ephedra and human growth hormone, he said, which he provided to famous athletes who paid a handsome price for his services. In fact, Monteilh said, he was doing so much “consulting” that the demand for his talents far exceeded his ability to supply his customers. “All my money is tied up right now,” he said. “If you will front me some money now, I will pay you back with huge returns.” Specifically, if Danielle could write Monteilh a check for $18,100, he would return the cash—and a profit of $12,900—within two weeks.
“I was dumb enough to write him a check,” she says. “When people ask me for help, I’m a sucker. Part of it, I will admit, was greed.”
On the day Danielle was supposed to get her money, Monteilh told her he had some wonderful news: He had another client who needed some ephedra immediately, and if she could give him another $6,000, her total profit would exceed $42,000. The following Monday, when Monteilh promised her the cash, he failed to return her telephone calls. Finally, Monteilh agreed to meet her at the Irvine gym. He explained that the cash was being held up because the “pharmaceutical cartel” he was working with needed a way to make their payment to her look legitimate. If Danielle would simply write another check for $9,000, they’d pay her a total of $53,000 within two hours.
On Sept. 18, 2006, Danielle met Monteilh in the parking lot of a Bank of America branch on Culver Street in Irvine and gave him a $9,000 cashier’s check. He promised to return a few hours later with her money. She waited for him until late that afternoon. At the last minute, he called and, apologizing profusely, invited her to meet him for dinner at Chili’s. While they ate, Monteilh told her that his associates had given him the slip, but he’d secured a promise they’d have her money by the end of the week, he said. Danielle told him that if he failed to deliver this time, she’d file a fraud complaint with the bank.
Even after that, Monteilh managed to coax another $15,000 from Danielle, a good-faith showing on her part that would smooth the way for her to double her rate of return and be paid $91,000 by that weekend. That never happened. Just as before, Monteilh apologized and promised her the money was on its way. Once again, he failed to deliver the cash, and Danielle realized he’d bilked her of $54,256 that she’d never see again. She called the Irvine Police Department, but the detective who took her call told her that she had no more legal standing against Monteilh than a person who gave a drug dealer money but was never delivered the drugs.