Man who says he spied on mosques for FBI files lawsuit

Craig Monteilh says he lives in danger.

He’s been targeted for death by Islamic extremist groups, the Romanian and Mexican mafias and white supremacist groups. One fugitive now wants his head, he claims.

Today Monteilh, a 47-year-old fitness consultant, plans to serve papers on the people he says put him in this bind – his former employer, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Irvine Police Department.

Monteilh, who says he spied on mosques for the FBI as an undercover informant, filed a lawsuit last week claiming his agency handlers violated his civil rights and put his life in danger.

“They put me in prison with no protection,” he said. “There were hits on my life. I had to do what was necessary to survive in there in defense of my own life.”

He said his FBI supervisors reneged on a promise of severance and protection after a FBI supervisor muddled an operation that would have uncovered “bomb making materials” at a mosque, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit, seeking $10 million in damages, was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Jan. 22.

Monteilh, 47, spied on nearly a dozen mosques from July 2006 and October 2007 on the FBI’s behalf, posing as a Muslim convert, the suit alleges.

Two of the mosques were in the San Gabriel Valley, including the Al-Nabi Mosque in West Covina and the Masjid Al-Fatiha mosque in Azusa, he said.

“The government will have an opportunity to respond to these allegations in court,” said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. “However, the accusations appear to be an attempt to discredit law enforcement for personal gain, at the expense of the Muslim-American community.”

Monteilh said he was recruited by the FBI after being released from prison in 2003 for forgery and grand theft charges. He worked his way up as an informant beginning with narcotics investigations in 2004 and eventually murder for hire and bank robbery operations, according to the lawsuit.

He joined the counterterrorism investigation called “Operation Flex” and worked under two FBI handlers with the agency’s Orange County Joint Terrorism Task Force, the lawsuit alleges.

The FBI asked Monteilh to spy on Islamic communities in Los Angeles County, Orange County and San Bernardino County, he said.

Monteilh claims he assumed the alias of Farouk al-Aziz, a convert of Syrian and French descent and worked under code name “Oracle.”

In order to spy on the mosques and gain the confidence of targets, Monteilh learned Arabic, studied the Quran and Hadith, led prayers at mosques and dated Muslim women, according to the lawsuit.

Monteilh alleges the FBI asked him to take detailed notes of conversations with Muslims at mosques, restaurants, homes and offices. He also alleges he used electronic surveillance devices to record their conversations at the agency’s behest.

Monteilh’s fallout with the FBI began in 2007 when he learned that an Irvine Police detective was investigating him for a grand theft charge related to a 2006 drug sting for the agency, according to the lawsuit.

Monteilh’s FBI handlers assured him that the grand theft case would be dissolved as part of his “exit strategy” from the counterterrorism operation, the lawsuit alleges.

During his surveillance, Monteilh claims he told his FBI handlers about the storage of suspected bomb making materials at a mosque.

A FBI supervisor didn’t act quickly enough to nab the materials, which had been moved to other locations by then. In return, the supervisor placed the blame on Monteilh, the lawsuit alleges. The supervisor then allowed the Irvine police detective to pursue the grand theft case.

The suit says Monteilh was arrested in December 2007. He claims he was forced to plead guilty to the charge and face 16 months in prison while continuing to provide information for the FBI.

After his cover was blown in prison, Monteilh was transferred to Wasco State Prison and he asked for protective custody but was left in the general population, according to the lawsuit.

Several groups, from Muslim extremists to white supremacists to the Mexican and Romanian Mafia, wanted Monteilh dead, the lawsuit alleges. Members of the white supremacist group, Public Enemy Number One, stabbed Monteilh in April 2008 and left him with permanent scars and limited mobility, according to the lawsuit.

Monteilh said he lives in fear because of the defendant’s actions.

The FBI has not identified Monteilh as an informant, citing policy, but has noted that it routinely cooperates with convicted felons.

A West Covina judge in December unsealed a transcript of the 2007 probation hearing that included testimony from a prosecutor that Monteilh was providing “very, very valuable information” to the FBI.

Monteilh said he’s confident in his case against the agency.

“I think our case is very strong,” he said.

james.wagner@sgvn.com

626-962-8811 ext. 2236

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: