The Jersey cop who stopped Al Qaeda
PBA members get to hear about how one of their own thwarted a terrorist plan the magnitude of 9/11
By Mitchell Krugel
Members stood in line outside the Seminole Ballroom waiting to meet the man behind the dark glasses. They didn’t know his real name or his true identity. They didn’t need to. They just knew he was a brother and a NJSPBA member. Or he was.
One by one, the man in the dark glasses greeted them and signed his new book, “American Radical.” The book recounted how he – as the Muslim real estate mogul Tamer Elnoury – went into deep cover, befriended one of the most dangerous Al Qaeda operatives known to mankind and prevented what could have been a mortifying terrorist act in Times Square 12 years after 9/11 and just as disastrous.
“How many lives did he save by doing what he did?” commented Hudson County Corrections Local 109 members Jay Nejad right after meeting Tamer and getting an autographed copy. “He’s an incredible storyteller. His story is incredible. It should be a movie.”
Elnoury filled his riveting account of a chilling mission known as Operation Direwolf commissioned with an engaging touch of humor that endeared him even more to members. Escorted by a heavy security detail that included many Atlantic City Local 24 members, Tamer conveyed what life is like living in disguise because he is still an Al Qaeda target.
“If anybody asks, tell them Tamer Elnoury staying right here at the Hard Rock all week under the name Pat Colligan,” he quipped.
That prompted what would be a series of alternating laughs, oh-mys and rousing ovations for Tamer. How could there be anything less for a law enforcement hero who started a three-day babysitting mission of Al Qaeda fiend Chiheb Esseghaier that turned into three and a half years of pure adrenalin and resulted in putting away Esseghaier for eternity.
Tamer still lives undercover. Following his book being published, 60 Minutes did a segment with him. CBS reportedly spent $50,000 on a disguise that enabled Elnoury to do the show.
“I’ve worked with many monsters, but nobody made the hair on my head stand up like Chiheb,” Elnoury explained.
Tamer first went undercover while in New Jersey working narcotics. To prep for his first crack buy, he said he watched the movie “New Jack City” about a dozen times. He wore a do-rag and admitted he did everything wrong.
“It was only by the grace of God and the support of my team that I didn’t die,” he revealed.
That was the first half of his career when he learned that much of undercover work was about making human connections. That would prove to be the asset that enabled Elnoury to gain Esseghaier’s trust and discover his plot to plant IEDs throughout Times Square on New Year’s Day 2013.
The details of how he thwarted the plot and collected evidence that led to Chiheb’s arrest are in the book. Everybody should read it. All members at the Mini Convention wanted to or so it seemed.
Colligan and Executive Vice President funded the purchase of 20 cases of “American Radical.” By the time Tamer signed for the last member, there were four copies left.
What members heard from Tamer about the international investigation that included working the Royal Canadian Mounted Police tracking Esseghaier’s terrorist cell hubbed in Canada and another one in the U.S. compelled them to want more. He captivated his audience with details that will someday create a Hollywood script.
“I would put on Tamer’s clothes, his watch, get in his car, drive to the beach and talk to myself, reciting everything there is to know about Tamer’s legend,” he revealed. “I crafted my legend and made myself available to Chiheb. I wanted him to choose me, a wealthy American Arab real estate investor.”
Know that Tamer is Muslim. When he saw what a deranged faction of Jihadists did on 9/11, he felt it was his duty to use his knowledge and his ability to speak Arabic – “with a Jersey accent, of course,” he quipped – to make sure such an attack like that would never happen again on American soil.
Tamer tried to articulate how he felt the night he found out about Operation Happy New Year When he heard how Esseghaier had mapped out where to plant the IEDs and set them to go off sequentially just where people would be running to after each explosion, well, that feeling can only be understood in Tamer’s own words.
“I could feel my carotid artery bulging through my neck,” he began. “It was 20 degrees outside, and I started to sweat. I had a pen in my pocket, and I started to picture myself stabbing him in the head with it.”
He ran away from Esseghaier that night. The op seemed in jeopardy of being blown. But Tamer went back to see the man who became his good friend the next morning. And over bagels and coffee, he began to collect the final pieces of evidence that would put Chiheb away.
There’s so much more to the story. And if you can’t get the book, find a member who bought one at the Mini and borrow it. It’s a must-read.
The story beyond that story is, of course, about a Jersey boy who came home to see his PBA sisters and brothers at the Mini. He is still on the job. Still undercover, training other agents to do what Tamer does.
Al Qaeda is still targeting Elnoury. And so that led to his appearance at the Mini is disguise.
“I really wanted to look you in the eye today,” Tamer told members. “I’m a Jersey cop just like you at the right place and the wrong time with the right skill set.”
Who saved the world from a disaster.
Fox News contributor Ted Williams brings his pro-law enforcement perspective to inspire members
After Atlantic City Local 24 member Sterling Wheaten stood at the podium to offer a thank-you note to the PBA for sustaining him through the federal civil rights violation case he prevailed in a few weeks earlier, Ted Williams was there to give him the first fist bump. Williams wanted to be right here, right now to similarly bump the positive outlook every PBA member.
The PBA had been working to get Williams to appear for this very moment. The former D.C. Metro officer, nationally renowned criminal and civil trial attorney and Fox News contributor extraordinaire on all things law enforcement even waived his speaking fee to bring his timely and fortifying words of inspiration to members.
“Think about what this man went through, what his family went through and talking about what all of you did for him,” Williams stated. “You had this man’s back. That is so needed in law enforcement today.”
Channeling some of the great motivational speakers, Williams reminded members that nobody will see officers – or video them – breathing life into that young child or running into that burning building to save a family. But not to sweat it.
“I’m here to let you know you are all needed, and you are all necessary,” Williams declared.
He was also here to tell members not to worry about that video some citizen is always trying to get of an officer using force. Don’t let that stop you, he directed, because it can’t get in the way when you have to make that split-second, use-of-force decision.
And as for the consequences:
“I’d rather have 12 people judging me than six people carrying me home in a box,” Williams preached.
He pointed out that the 12 could very well wind up on your side, like the jury did for Louisville Officer Brett Hankinson in the Breanna Taylor case.
“I’m so glad the jury saw that he wanted to protect one of his fellow officers,” Williams said with the same vigor as if he was on the Fox News Channel screen talking to Tucker Carlson. “I don’t think any of you would have done anything different.”
Law enforcement can trust Williams because he has been there with a gun to his head. It happened when somebody snuck up behind him while putting coins into a soda machine while on with D.C. Metro.
He felt the bullets whizzing past his head. He was pulling his snub-nose-38 when the shooter got away.
“They found him, and I lived,” Williams exhaled. “It makes you think about the Wheatens rather than the officer who hesitates. Remember, that moment you relax is the moment you can lose your life.”
Before culminating with some words to live by, Williams cut to the heart of the matter regarding the greatest challenges for law enforcement these days. He analyzed that the people in the community don’t think officers just go around all day beating up black people.
Williams presented commentary that you might have heard him recite on Fox News.
“The fricking criminals are winning because you’ve got weak-kneed politicians,” he said. “We have a noble profession necessitated by the society in which we live.”
And for a closing argument, Williams left members with this:
“They want you. They need you,” he reminded. “Some little boy or girl is going to see you and want to be just like you. You all are wonderful. So I beg you, keep your head up high. You cannot let the criminals win.”
Inside the Mongols
ATF Agent William Queen reveals how he lost himself going under cover with a biker gang
By Esther Gonzales
William “Billy” Queen burst through the doors of the Hard Rock ballroom and ran down the aisle, surrounded by hundreds of PBA members.
His voice boomed through the air, scaring everyone, as he screamed lines from the Mongols chant, including, “Castrate the sheriff with a broken piece of glass.”
But that did not compare to the level of danger that Queen faced as an undercover ATF agent on a mission to infiltrate one of the most dangerous biker gangs in the world. During his two years undercover, beginning in 1998, Queen faced death more than once.
Queen told members about the moment he received the first phone call from a Mongols member, saying, “Bring your car. Bring your gun. We’re going to shoot.” He knew something was about to happen.
The second he stepped out of the car, he was surrounded. One member, named Red Dog, questioned, “How long were you in the academy? Who knows you’re with the Mongols today?”
Red Dog placed the gun to the side of Queen’s head and questioned him again as the gang members erupted in drunken laughter. Another member stumbled over to Billy, wrapped his arms around his shoulders and bluntly stated, “If I find out you’re a cop, I’ll kill you.”
This was one of the many moments that almost convinced Billy to quit. But he climbed back on his bike, his assignment leading him down the blurred line of who he really was versus who he was perceived to be.
In 1998, his supervisors asked Queen to go undercover with the Mongols because he had previously ridden with one of their biggest rivals, the Devil’s Angels. After agreeing, Queen prepared to infiltrate the San Fernando, California, chapter of the Mongols. He posed as a bearded, long-haired motorcyclist who drank beer and rode his Harley-Davidson. He used the alias Billy St. John.
Once the Mongols knew him by name, he became a hang-around, someone allowed to be around the gang before becoming a member — until the day he was invited to a party and someone threw a vest at him with the word “Mongols” inscribed in big black letters on the back.
“This was the moment my life changed forever,” Queen confided. “I had to participate in illegal activities, carrying out their every command.”
From trafficking drugs to stealing motorcycles and driving getaway cars, Queen made his mark in the Mongols. He gained their trust while secretly recording their conversations with a device inside his belt.
One of his greatest challenges was realizing there were no guidelines set by the ATF except to simply be the best possible witness against them. Queen drew his own line in the sand. He would not murder. And he would not commit acts of sexual violence.
Queen quickly realized there was no time off. For fear of being discovered as an undercover agent, he answered every phone call. He often orchestrated situations so they turned out to cause less harm than they otherwise might have.
Then, around New Year’s, his mom passed away.
The grief hit him hard. He traveled to North Carolina for the funeral. But he was told to get back on the bike right away because one of the biggest rides of the year was coming.
So he got back on the bike.
When Queen came back, he was surprised to be greeted with a hug.
“Sorry about your mama. We love you, brother,” member after member told him that day.
Guilt welled up in Queen. He knew that sooner or later he would face them in court, even though some of them had saved his life. This was another moment that almost convinced Queen to quit. But he told himself, “They love Billy St. John, not Billy Queen.”
Billy Queen was a father. His two children lived 15 minutes away. But after the Mongols randomly appeared one day when he was walking around town with his kids, and after the PTA at his children’s school made comments about his looks, he disappeared from his kids’ lives.
The extreme difficulty of separating his personas led to his drinking heavily. It was the only way he knew to cope.
When the arrests finally came down, Queen watched the events unfold on the screen before him with his ATF superiors. He thought life could finally return to normal. But when he was told he would need to hide out in Texas, his heart sank. His ex-wife and children would be relocating to Florida. It wouldn’t be until two months later that the ATF had all the necessary information for warrants.
Eventually, 53 of the 54 Mongols indicted were convicted of crimes. When Queen appeared in court, he was asked whether he had participated in crimes, too.
“Yes,” Queen replied to the defense attorney. “If I had not participated in that, your client would have killed me.”
After 28 lonely, isolating months, Queen could finally live as himself.
Queen is now running for sheriff in North Carolina. He has received calls from various Mongols; the threat is still imminent. But Queen is prepared.
“We are the people that stand between freedom and absolute chaos,” Queen told the PBA members. “I’m ready for it.”
Injured on the job
Don’t let the department determine your diagnosis, says Local 325 member
In an instant, Essex County Prosecutors Office Local 325 member Nick Rizzitello’s life changed forever.
While he was working on a power line on a road job in 2018, a bolt of electricity surged through him. Immediately, he fell to the ground, unconscious.
Responders resuscitated the detective and rushed him to the hospital. Rizzitello spent the next few months undergoing a series of psychological evaluations and false accusations from a department that was trying to cover up the truth behind his injury.
In the hospital, Rizzitello suffered from amnesia, and he could not talk for an hour after the incident. No one could reach his wife, until her information was finally found on Facebook.
As Rizzitello described what he went through to PBA members, he admitted that prior to the accident, he did not have an emergency contact. He stressed to members the importance of filling out their emergency contact information forms.
During Rizzitello’s three days in the hospital, doctors tried to convince him and his wife that he had suffered a heart attack and that he could return to work right away. Rizzitello returned to work, but he began to suffer from something he had never experienced before — anxiety and depression.
So when he was told that the PBA offered counseling through its clinical services, headed by Dr. Gene Stefanelli, he went for another psychological evaluation. It was only then that Rizzitello was accurately diagnosed with PTSD.
As a result, he was awarded an accidental disability pension. Rizzitello related how important it is to have someone to fight for you, as Dr. Stefanelli did for him.
“Sometimes you feel like you’re on an island alone, and it’s tough,” Rizzitello related to PBA members. “You don’t know what a phone call or text message means to someone.”
First Responder Partnership Health Center ready to give PBA members the treatment
As soon as Integrity Health CEO Doug Forrester finished speaking to members about the First Responder Partnership Health Center (FRPHC) that would open in a few days, NJSPBA Health Benefits Coordinator Kevin Lyons pledged to be the first patient. And it wasn’t just because the first 500 patients would receive specially minted, sequentially-numbered challenge coins commemorating the opening of the center.
Lyons wanted to lead by example to help members realize the virtue of this one-stop shop for so many of their healthcare needs. Turns out, he showed up first thing on the morning of March 14 – opening day – and received challenge coin No. 3.
Apparently, the FRPHC coming online will be the momentous event Forrester he and his team had been working more than two years to provide. Integrated, robust primary and specialized care – and behavioral health care – is now available for members and their loved ones.
Forrester stopped at the Mini for just a few minutes because he wanted to get back and make sure everything would be set perfectly for patients. He made a pledge to members with short but extremely robust remarks.
“Like it reads on our logo: ‘Healthy minds and bodies for all those who protect and serve,’” Forrester declared. “We believe this is essential to you doing your jobs.”
Forrester saluted NJSPBA President Pat Colligan, Executive Vice President Marc Kovar and Lyons for providing the leadership to get the FRPHC up and running. And he left members with a promise based on something he learned when he was the director of the state’s Division of Pensions.
“I remember preparing people for retirement. One of the things we have done is raised the bar on healthcare so you can enjoy your retirement,” he explained. “I am tired of hearing stories about giving the best years of your life and being diminished by the time you hit retirement. So that’s why we have given you a health center.”
Cleaning up the bills of health
Members learn about how they can battle the ills of healthcare
By Mitchell Krugel
Just when the Mini Convention seemed to be on the verge of information saturation, a breath of energy swept through the ballroom. A prescription for the end-of-the-week intensity drain and for one of the biggest pains for every member came in the form of author/journalist Marshall Allen’s presentation about the “Real Cost of Healthcare.”
Trying to inspire all those battered by Chapter 78, Allen delivered some powerful preaching about how the healthcare system and medical insurance are set up to gouge users. An investigative journalist who has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Allen dropped some real bombs about how the healthcare profession is swindling its users and that there is so much money to be saved with a basic understanding of how it works.
“I look at the healthcare system from the people perspective,” reported Allen, whose book, “Never Pay the First Bill” has become renowned as the healthcare consumer’s bible. “People who have the most at stake – they’re the ones feeling the bill because 100 percent of money spent on healthcare is coming out of our compensation. So we need to protect it.”
Like his book and his reporting on the subject for ProPublica, Allen’s remarks at the Mini came with some almost unbelievable reveals. For example, he explained how a drug prescribed for a shoulder condition many members have had and is treated with a very high-priced drug is a bit of sham. As he said, it’s a combination of two over-the-counter medications that cost $30 at the pharmacy. But the insurance companies are charging 10 times for.
Though Allen is now working with the Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, he did not come to the Mini as a government shill. He came to implore members to make healthcare financial literacy an essential part of negotiating every employee-sponsored health plan as a means to keep deductibles from getting higher and higher.
“Boosting healthcare literacy skills is necessary to keep them from preying on our ignorance,” Allen asserted. “They are counting on our ignorance to swindle us and using deception to deprive you of money.”
Allen showed members considerable detail about how providers hide prices to make patients overpay. It’s tantamount to fraud. Or blatant fraud.
He presented some evidence related to a government-issued rule for hospitals to comply with price transparency. The rule took effect on Jan. 1, 2021, but Allen said only 10 of 46 hospitals in the Newark are complying.
One of those is Bayonne Medical Center. Allen’s research revealed that a Level 3 ER visit at Bayonne has a cash price of $256, but that United Healthcare is charging $1,718 for that visit, and other insurance companies are charging more than $750 for that visit.
“Brute fraud happens every day in the insurance industry,” Allen continued. “Insurance companies don’t do anything about it. They are more loyal to the doctors and the hospitals than members. Don’t let them pass that down to you and me.”
As he counseled members to get engaged with their health care to keep from being intimidated and bullied, Allen noted that there are many tactics to take action. Get an itemized bill, he said. Research the billing codes to make sure you are being billed correctly and not gouged.
“Become empowered,” Allen charged. “With the right tactics, David can beat Goliath.”
Dr. Schlosser lays out the blueprint for a proper fitness-for-duty eval
As he began the first presentation of the 2022 Mini Convention, Dr. Lewis Schlosser posted the first slide, a picture of a certain police psychologist, Dr. Matthew Guller, who is on the spit list of many PBA members.
“I am not this guy,” reassured Schlosser as he proceeded to spend an hour educating members about how to make sure they aren’t roped into helping chiefs and municipalities terminate their jobs.
The NJSPBA invited Schlosser to the Mini so he could pull back the curtain on fitness-for-duty evaluations, a nerve-racking ordeal that tends to leave many members in the dark. From his experience, Schlosser put himself in members’ shoes and answered the questions some may be afraid to ask.
Schlosser has conducted more than 150,000 law enforcement psychological evaluations and more than 1,000 fitness-for-duty evaluations. His overarching goal has always been to ensure that law enforcement officers are fit to return to work.
“My job here is to make fitness for duty transparent for you,” declared Schlosser as he examined the different situations that occur when an officer is called in for an evaluation.
Officers are sent for fitness-for-duty evaluations for several reasons, Schlosser continued. He assured PBA members that, as law enforcement officers, they have more rights than they may realize.
The main question when undergoing an evaluation, he noted, is whether the officer is suitable for the job. For example, the psychologist should be trying to discover if there is a presence of psychological impairment that would prevent an officer from working, not just looking for ways to help a municipality or agency terminate them.
Other significant reasons for pursuing evaluations should include determining if an officer is a danger to themselves or others, if the officer was involved in a domestic dispute or if there were any substance-abuse issues. Schlosser noted that, as a result, the guidelines set forward for the officer are not punitive but are set in place to ensure safety in the field, which is the primary concern.
“The main goals of fitness-for-duty evaluations are to determine whether or not officers can continue performing their job functions,” he added. “Because the philosophy behind fitness-for-duty evaluations is not to end a career, which many members fear, but rather to help members and save their career.”
After meeting with a doctor, there are several outcomes that may occur. The doctor might prescribe a treatment plan for the officer in question or add conditions for going back to work. If the officer is deemed unable to return to work, disability retirement is an option. Or, worst-case scenario, the officer will be put on paid administrative leave.
Schlosser culminated his presentation by stating that he’d like to think more officers are raising their hands to ask for help because it’s important to seek treatment when it is needed most. And understand that a fitness-for-duty evaluation is a precursor to help, not harm.
“You need objective data,” he detailed, “and you need to treat everyone the same and fair. And it should be consistent.”
Giving it up for an old friend
Kalafer brothers carry on father’s tradition with unprecedented support for members
When it came to that time of the Mini Convention, all members figured they would miss Steve Kalafer. The magnetic owner of Flemington Car & Truck County, who made every PBA member who walked into his dealership a deal too good to pass up, had been coming to Mini mid-week for many years to show his love and support for law enforcement.
And give them a gift that came once a year and was better than Christmas.
The PBA lost its great friend on April 21 of last year after a long and brave battle with cancer. But the Mini would show how Kalafer’s legacy will endure forever.
The PBA put together a tribute video that brought tears to Joshua and Jonathon, Steve’s sons who took dad’s place on the podium. Though the boys insisted they could never take their dad’s place in the hearts of members, they did a pretty good job. And likely made dad smile watching from his perch up there.
“We are overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation for all of you,” Jonathon declared. His words. Steve’s accent.
“Dad loved you all so much,” he continued. “And because of him, we will be here for all of you forever, so help us God.”
With that, the brothers fulfilled the mission Steve started by making a donation for the welfare of members.
“Neither of us can do it with quite the awesomeness of dad,” Josh confirmed. “We can’t totally fill his shoes, but we can carry on his tradition.”
The Kalafer brothers then submitted a number for the donation that far surpassed what the family had given in any past year.
And when that number was announced, you can be sure of one thing.
Somewhere up there, Steve Kalafer was smiling.