In September 2007, Irvine police finally followed up on Danielle’s and Carla’s complaints, and after working out a plea deal that avoided a jury trial, Monteilh went to jail for conning the two women out of more than $150,000. Although he could have spent more than five years behind bars, prosecutors agreed to lower his sentence to 16 months, of which Monteilh served only eight. The district attorney’s office refused to comment on Monteilh’s claim that he received a reduced sentence after the FBI intervened on his behalf. “We formulated the state prison sentence based upon the amount of theft and the facts and circumstances and proof in the case,” says DA spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder. “That’s all we’re going to say about it.”

His victims aren’t being so quiet, especially when it comes to the question of whether the FBI should believe anything Monteilh told them while working as an informant. “When I read about the mosque thing, I couldn’t believe it,” recalls Carla. “His con would be to convert [to Islam], con the Muslims into believing him, and con the FBI out of their money. That’s what he does.”

Danielle agrees. “It would not surprise me if he bullshitted the FBI,” she says. “‘I’m going to prevent another 9/11! Give me your money, and I’ll do that.’ Shame on them for believing him.”

Craig Monteilh in Muslim-convert drag
John Gilhooley
Craig Monteilh in Muslim-convert drag
Danielle was taken in by Monteilh's HGH scam—for which he eventually served time
John Gilhooley
Danielle was taken in by Monteilh's HGH scam—for which he eventually served time

Not surprisingly, in Monteilh’s version of events, he’s both the victim and the hero of this story. He’s preparing a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the FBI. “They allowed Irvine P.D. to arrest me,” he says. “They didn’t live up to the exit strategy. I still have a restraining order against me, and if I violate it, I go back to prison for three months. Does that sound to you like the FBI lived up to its end of the bargain?”

If Monteilh is angry at the FBI, he’s certainly not alone. “The fact that the sanctity of our mosques has been totally violated shows the total disrespect the FBI has toward Muslims,” says CAIR’s Ayloush. “For the past eight years, CAIR and other groups have been engaged in a campaign to build a relationship with the FBI, and at the same time, their instigator was trying to get innocent Muslims to become terrorists. We feel like we were stabbed with a huge dagger in the back.”

Shortly before President George W. Bush left office, the FBI broke off its relationship with CAIR, citing the fact the group was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a case against the Holy Land Foundation, which was convicted in November 2008 of funneling cash to Hamas. The FBI’s decision rankled Tareef Nashashibi, former chairman of the Orange County Arab American Republican Club, which has been active in helping to advise the FBI on its relationship with Muslim Americans. “I wasn’t happy with that,” Nashashibi says. “But what really bugs me is all the trouble coming out of the Orange County office. We saw a threat [Monteilh] and automatically called the police and the FBI, as good citizens should do. And guess what? Our people are getting prosecuted for it. We are doing the best we can to safeguard this country, and we get shot in the foot for it.”

Nobody is less surprised that the FBI supposedly used Monteilh to spy on mosques than Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. “This has reinforced our suspicions and fears all along that we carried,” he says. In May 2006, just before the FBI’s Tidwell insisted the bureau would never spy on mosques, Syed and several other Muslim leaders filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FBI, demanding records of any surveillance operations against them. When the FBI handed over only 50 pages of heavily redacted material, the ACLU filed a lawsuit and ultimately won hundreds of pages—most of them blacked-out—showing that the FBI had indeed been monitoring them. The FBI continues to withhold numerous records on national-security grounds, but on April 20, a federal judge ordered the FBI to hand over those records.

According to Monteilh, Syed’s FOIA request could turn up quite a scandal. Although he refused to elaborate, he claims the FBI wasn’t just spying on mosques. “This is way bigger than that,” he says. “If you think this was racial profiling, you haven’t even heard the beginning.” When asked why the FBI hasn’t arrested anyone other than Niazi if he really thwarted a terrorist plot, Monteilh insists that the FBI is just biding its time for the controversy over his infiltration of the mosques to blow over. “With all that is going on now, maybe it’s best to hold on,” he says. “When they start arresting people, who’s going to be the hero?”

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