If anybody's perfect for the kind of in-depth story-telling that has made public radio's This American Life the most listened to weekly radio program in America--not to mention the most downloaded podcast in the country--it's Craig Monteilh. His story possesses that certain ineffable mix of comedy and creepiness that TAM has virtually trademarked, as I first revealed in my April 2009 profile of Monteilh for OC Weekly, "Who Was That Mosqued Man?
Monteilh, in case you've forgotten, is the hulking, roid-enhanced, self-described "fitness consultant" and con artist who somehow convinced the FBI to pay him to pose as a French-Syrian man named Farouk Aziz who was interested in rediscovering his Islamic roots. He showed up at an Irvine mosque in early 2006, and after converting to Islam, began expressing interest in jihad. For the next year, the FBI paid Monteilh thousands of dollars a month while he secretly recorded fellow worshippers, including an Afghan immigrant named Ahmadullah Sais Niazi who allegedly told Monteilh he thought Osama bin Laden was an "angel."
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When the FBI discovered that Niazi had lied on his immigration papers about having a brother-in-law who belonged to a Taliban faction aligned with Al Qaeda, the bureau attempted to force Niazi to become an informant, and when he refused, they arrested him. The funny thing is that by then, Niazi had already become creeped out by Monteilh's radical rhetoric and had told others at the mosque, who in turn alerted the FBI about Monteilh, not realizing the fugazi jihadi was already working for the bureau.
His luck as a mole running out, Monteilh also found himself in hot water on another front: as it turned out, the whole time he was leading the FBI on a wild-goose chase for terrorists, he was also ripping off rich women he met at the gym, conning them into investing in a phony human growth hormone scheme, and stealing their cash to the tune of six figures. He did prison time for theft, and later sued the FBI, which didn't lift a finger to help him avoid the charges, and which also dropped its case against Niazi. If that's not crazy enough, there's the fact that Monteilh is now working with the Muslim community against the FBI.
Tune in to KCRW at 10 am or KPCC at 1 pm tomorrow, Saturday, Aug. 11 to hear the show. Or go to This American Life's website for a podcast, available for a week after airtime.