Man who went undercover in O.C. antiterrorist operation provided key information to FBI, court transcript shows
An Irvine man who says he was recruited by the FBI to go undercover as part of an antiterrorist effort in Orange County had been working with the bureau in 2007 and had provided “very, very valuable information” that had proven “essential” to a federal prosecution, according to a court transcript made public Friday.
FBI officials have declined to publicly address Craig Monteilh’s assertion that he was an informant, and, citing bureau policy, continued to do so following the release of the previously sealed transcript.
“The FBI has an historic policy of neither confirming nor denying the identity of informants; to do so would jeopardize investigations and the personal security of others,” Laura Eimiller, a bureau spokeswoman, said in a prepared statement.
Monteilh, 47, went public earlier this year, asserting that he served as a confidential informant for the FBI from July 2006 through October 2007 to identify and thwart terrorist plots in the Orange County Islamic community.
He says information he provided led to the indictment in February of Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, whom Monteilh said tried to radicalize him while he was pretending to be a Muslim convert at the Islamic Center of Irvine.
According to an FBI agent who testified at Niazi’s bail hearing 10 months ago, the defendant was secretly recorded by an informant while initiating jihadist rhetoric and threatening to blow up abandoned buildings.
Monteilh says he is the informant who made those recordings, but FBI officials have declined to confirm or deny his account.
Niazi, who was born in Afghanistan, has not been charged with terrorism. Rather he was charged with lying on his citizenship and passport applications for failing to disclose that his brother-in-law is a close associate of Osama bin Laden. He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
Monteilh also maintains he was instructed to lure Muslims from various mosques to local gyms to work out with him and that agents would later obtain security camera footage from the facilities and ask Monteilh to identify the people who showed up. A law enforcement source interviewed by The Times confirmed the surveillance occurred, but stressed that it was a narrowly focused operation that targeted people Monteilh had already implicated in crimes.
The records unsealed Friday show that state prosecutors sought to have Monteilh’s probation in a theft case terminated early at the behest of the FBI.
The judge granted the prosecution’s request and later issued an order sealing the notes regarding why the probation had been terminated early. That order was lifted Thursday morning by L.A. County Superior Court Judge Carol Williams Elswick in West Covina. The court reporter’s transcript of the hearing was made public Friday.
Monteilh and his attorney, Adam J. Krolikowski, said they sought to have the records unsealed, in part, to pave the way for a lawsuit they plan to file against the FBI. Monteilh alleges the bureau reneged on various promises that he says agents made while he was an informant.