Last week, federal authorities were dealt an embarrassing blow in their immigration and money-laundering case against Jesse Maali, the Palestinian-American owner of the Big Bargain World and Sports Dominator store chains. Police admitted that stories of witness intimidation on the part of Maali's family -- including gun violence and acid bombings -- had been wholly concocted by two informants (one a car-stereo installer and the other an accused shoplifter) who were being paid by the DEA.
The revelation followed the public withdrawal of a widely circulated story that five foreign-born men had entered the U.S. illegally on or around Christmas Eve. According to the FBI, the information had apparently been fabricated by their informant, an accused smuggler who was seeking leniency on forgery charges.
Just days ago, Orlando Weekly received a tape of an FBI interview with yet another informant. A transcript follows.
Agent #1: Please state your name for the record.
Informant: Joe Jack Beaudine.
Agent #1: And your place of residence?
Informant: Casselberry, Florida.
Agent #1: In your phone call, you said you had some important information for us.
Informant: Yeah, I do. A few months back, I read how the terrorists had got their claws in I-Drive. So ever since, I been keepin' an eye on the area, like a good citizen should. I just know those Talibanians would do anything to interfere with our God-given right to affordable vacation souvenirs. It's like demoralizing the enemy. Makes perfect sense.
Anyway, last week, I was monitorin' this one place, the House of Zinc Oxide. I'm just standin' around, tryin' to look incognito, when all of a sudden the Ay-rab behind the counter goes crazy, shoutin' at me at the top of his lungs. And all the time he's got this wild look in his eyes.
Agent #2: Could you make out anything he was saying?
Informant: I'm pretty sure it was "Death to America! Death to America!"
Agent #1: Were there any witnesses who heard him, as well?
Informant: Well, the wife was there, but she said it sounded more like, "No rest room without purchase." Frankly, fellas, I wouldn't take that woman's word for diddly. She watches too damn much Meredith Viera for her own good. But back to my story. I started yellin' back: "Go home to wherever you come from," I said. "Love it or leave it!" Well, he jumped over the counter, just as quick as you please. And before I knowed it, he'd got his hands around my neck.
Agent #1: And then?
Informant: He hit me with an acid bomb.
Agents: (Unintelligible hubbub)
Informant: People think this discolored skin is eczema. HUH-uh.
Agent #2: Mr. Beaudine, we certainly appreciate your coming forward. On the phone, you alluded to suspicious activity in your own neighborhood. Would you please elaborate?
Informant: Sure. There's this Middle Eastern-lookin' fella who shows up every now and then to knock on the door of the house next to mine. He's always got some kinda package in his hands, and he never takes his sunglasses off. When whoever's home comes to the door, he gives them a clipboard and makes them sign their name. Then he hands over the package and leaves.
Agent #1: Interesting. How is he dressed?
Informant: He wears these funky little brown shorts, and a matching shirt with a gold emblem on the left pocket. I think it's like a religious uniform.
Agent #2: Have you noticed any damage to your own property following his visits?
Informant: Every time he leaves, I look in my own mailbox. And what do I find? Acid bomb.
Agent #1: Each time?
Informant: Like clockwork.
Agents: (Inaudible whispering)
Agent #2: This is staggering intelligence, Mr. Beaudine. You've been a vigilant soldier in the war on terror.
Informant: Wait, it gets worse. Just three days ago, I'm on a repair run for work ...
Agent #1: Pardon me for interrupting, but that reminds me. We haven't yet established your occupation.
Informant: I service and install health-related equipment.
Agent #1: O.K.
Informant: So I'm out on a call, and I walk into the service area. And there's towelheads everywhere! Towelheads to the left of me, towelheads to the right. (Sings) Here I am, stuck in the middle with you. (Bitter laughter)
Agent #1: Did you attempt to notify your superiors?
Informant: Sure I did. I told my supervisor, Earl Junior, "This place is crawling with towelheads!" And he just tells me to shut up and go back to work.
Agent #2 : Just so we're clear, your exact location was ...
Informant: Gold's Gym, Red Bug Lake.
Agent #2: And you were there to fix the ...
Agent #1: Right.
Informant: The sucker was breaking down something fierce. (Ominously) That's what happens when your heating unit is clogged up by an acid bomb.
Agents: (More whispering)
Agent #1: Mr. Beaudine, we want to thank you for coming in. It's because of people like you that our national defense is in the shape it's in today.
Informant: I got an acid bomb out in the truck. You want to see it?
Agent #2: Not necessary, thanks.
Agent #1: Now, we fully recognize that freedom has its cost. And we're sure that Uncle Sam wants to see you compensated for your dedication. (Lowers voice) What can we do for you, Mr. Beaudine?
Informant: (Pauses, feigning thought) We-ellll, I'll tell you what. My ex, Doreen, she's been on my back lately about the child support. If you kind gentlemen could just make a call, maybe me and the new missus could go out for ribs once in a while, instead of havin' our paychecks go straight to Underoos all the time.
Agent #1: Consider it done. It's a small price to pay to preserve our way of life.