Ayloush, who’d been working with the FBI since 9/11, immediately called Tidwell, the official who a year earlier had promised the crowd at the Irvine mosque that the bureau would never spy on mosques. “I am calling to report a possible terrorist,” Ayloush told the assistant director. “He is a white convert in Irvine.” As soon as Ayloush uttered those words, he says Tidwell cut him off. “Okay,” he reportedly replied. “Thanks for letting us know.”

Ayloush offered to provide the FBI with the man’s name and address, but, he says, Tidwell told him to give the information to the Irvine P.D., which he promptly did. “Neither the FBI nor the Irvine P.D. ever bothered to talk to the guy after he was reported,” Ayloush says.

When the Irvine mosque sought and obtained a restraining order against him, Monteilh began sending angry e-mails to Niazi, Ayloush and others, blasting them for being “weak Muslims” and “traitors” for talking to the FBI—a ploy Monteilh says he used to try to maintain his cover.

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

In June 2008, Ayloush says, Niazi came to CAIR’s office in Anaheim and complained that the FBI had accused him of perjury when he testified for the restraining order against Monteilh and threatened to send him to prison for years if he refused to become an informant. Among other things, he says, the FBI confronted Niazi with their knowledge that his sister was married to Amin Al Haq, an Afghan mujahedin leader who went on to become involved with a militant Taliban faction allied with al-Qaeda, a fact that Niazi had failed to mention in his immigration paperwork. Niazi told Ayloush that he couldn’t pick his in-laws and he did not wish become an informant. “He started crying,” Ayloush recalls. “He said, ‘I don’t want anything to happen to me. I came to America thinking this was a free country and I’d be treated with dignity and humanity.’”

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.”

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.”

« Previous Page
Next Page »