Michael Chertoff, appointed by President Bush to head the Homeland Security Department, may have shielded from criminal prosecution a former client suspected by law enforcement of having funneled millions of dollars directly to Osama Bin Laden while in charge of the U.S. Government’s 9.11 investigation. Egyptian-born Dr. Magdy el-Amir, a prominent New Jersey neurologist, was at the center of terrorist intrigue in Jersey City.
- El-Amir gave money to a conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman.
- His brother in Cairo was caught on tape attempting to buy weapons from an American undercover agent for Islamic militant groups.
- Before being arrested in a terrorist deal involving oil and heroin for guns and training, arms smuggler Diaa Mohsen was paid at least $5,000 by one of Dr. el Amir’s companies, NBC’s Dateline reported.
- And his HMO was suspected by law enforcement of being used to funnel money directly to Osama bin laden.
WIRE TRANSFERS TO “UNKNOWN PARTIES”
Chertoff’s client “caused more than $5.7 million to be paid by wire transfers to unknown parties,” said the lawsuit filed shortly before the state took over his failing HMO. News accounts about el-Amir’s legal difficulties contain unanswered questions about undue political influence and its effect on national security.
For example, how did el-Amir, who only the month before had been granted a state license to operate an HMO, finagle a lucrative contract from the state of New Jersey in 1995? “Why was this doctor allowed to start a health plan?” asked the October 25, 1999 issue of the medical trade journal Medical Economics.
“How could this medical entrepreneur, who had no experience running a managed-care or health insurance company, receive a license for an HMO that now provides care to 44,000 of New Jersey’s most vulnerable citizens?” asked The Bergen Record. “Moreover, how could the state pay such a novice $ 6 million a month in taxpayers money to take on such a responsibility?”
Why did Michael Chertoff even take the case?
SKIMMING FOR OSAMA IN NEW JERSEY
Answers were slow in coming, until it was revealed that at the same time el-Amir was pitching state business he had begun making generous contributions to the governing Republican party, donating nearly $ 18,000 to various GOP candidates in 1996.
And a foreign intelligence report made available to the Chairman of the House International Committee alleged that an HMO owned by Dr. el Amir in New Jersey was “funded by Ben Laden,” and that in turn Dr. el Amir was skimming money from the HMO to fund “terrorist activities.”‘… Stuff like that doesn’t happen, does it? In New Jersey?
Barely three years after enrolling its first patient, APPP lay in financial ruins, its network doctors and hospitals were saddled with millions of dollars in unpaid claims, and its founder had retained the services of Michael Chertoff.
Did Chertoff know where the stolen money was going?
“Frankly, we can’t differentiate between terrorism and organized crime and drug dealing,” then-Asst Attorney General Michael Chertoff told the Senate Banking Committee looking into the terrorists’ money trail in the aftermath of 9.11.
“These groups don’t hold themselves independently: They work with one another. Terrorists get engaged in drug activity. They have relationships with organized crime,” Chertoff said.
PAGING TONY SOPRANO
Chertoff was undoubtedly worth every penny Dr. Magdy paid him: though doctors and hospitals calculated they were owed more than $45 million, Dr. ElAmir faced no criminal charges.
When the MadCow Morning News first reported on Mob and terrorist connections to “Magic Dutch Boy” Rudi Dekkers and the covert operations conducted at the Venice Airport, Michael Chertoff was running the official U.S. investigation. Dekkers remains free. Magdy el-Amir continues to live and practice in New Jersey.
Now that Chertoff has been tapped to keep America safe, questions are sure to resurface about whether he hadn’t himself been instrumental in helping to make America dangerous. Documents in the el-Amir case remain under seal. Fortunately, the following information does not. From the Bergen County Record (New Jersey) on January 24, 1999:
“For a while, Magdy Elamir looked like the Horatio Alger of managed care in New Jersey.””An Egyptian immigrant who parlayed a storefront medical practice in Jersey City into a multimillion-dollar health-care empire that served thousands of the state’s poorest citizens, he lived in a Saddle River mansion and contributed generously to candidates for political office”…
“His health maintenance organization, American Preferred Provider Plan Inc., is about to be sold by state regulators to salvage some money for doctors and hospitals who calculate they’re owed more than $ 45 million.” Link
In August 2002, NBC’s Dateline reported on the el-Amir case:
“Last fall, DATELINE obtained information about this man, Magdy el Amir. He’s a prominent doctor, a neurologist with a practice in Jersey City. Born and educated in Egypt, he moved to this country about 20 years ago and since then has built a fortune…
MY BROTHER LIKES TANKS, IS ALL.
“Well, take a look at this document obtained by DATELINE last fall. A foreign intelligence report that makes a startling allegation about the doctor, that he has had financial ties with Osama bin Laden for years. The report was given to a senior member of Congress, Ben Gilman, back in 1998 when he was chairman of the House International Relations Committee…”The report alleges that an HMO owned by Dr. el Amir in New Jersey was “funded by Ben Laden,” and that in turn Dr. el Amir was skimming money from the HMO to fund ‘terrorist activities.’…
“Less than a year after the congressman says the FBI received the report, Dr. el Amir’s HMO was taken over by the state of New Jersey… according to sources close to the investigation, more than $15 million is unaccounted for. Where did the money go? DATELINE has reviewed documents that show at least some of it went into hard-to-trace offshore bank accounts…
“But the intelligence report suggests one thing that he doesn’t deny, that he has donated money to the mosque where the blind sheik once preached, Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is now in prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing”…
“DATELINE has found another reason why federal investigators might want to pay close attention to Dr. el Amir and his family. It’s something we learned when we interviewed Randy Glass, the con man-turned-undercover operative who helped the government break up an illegal weapons ring allegedly tied to terrorist groups. It turns out that one of the people recorded trying to arrange an arms deal with Randy Glass was Dr. el Amir’s own brother, Mohamed, an engineer, also a US citizen now living in Egypt. And just listen to what he was interested in”…
“Mr. GLASS: (From tape) OK. They want to ship things like tanks, correct?”
“Mr. EL AMIR: (From tape) Uh-huh… No, no, no, no, just ammunition, not tanks.”
“Glass says federal agents told him to drop the matter”…
“That same intelligence report that talks about Dr. [Magdy] el Amir also names his brother Mohamed as having ties to Osama bin Laden.” Link
CHERTOFF FOR THE DEFENSE
The el-Amir’s appear to be intimately linked with Osama bin Laden, making the following report from The Bergen Record quite puzzling, dated December 11, 1998:
“A Superior Court judge on Thursday ordered state Insurance Commissioner… to take control of American Preferred Provider Plan Inc., a health-maintenance organization for Medicaid patients allegedly bled dry by its Saddle River owner, neurologist Magdy Elamir…”But in a hint of the gravity of his legal predicament, he was represented in court by Michael Chertoff, the former U.S. attorney in Newark and counsel to U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato’s Whitewater investigation.” Link
Yes, the soon-to-be Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff represented a known bin Laden operative. Perhaps more troubling, Chertoff also headed the U.S.’s investigation into the September 11th attack. From the New Jersey Law Journal, August 4, 2003:
“The Sept. 11 investigation was supervised by Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff, head of the U.S. Criminal Justice Division, who is now a Third Circuit judge.” Link
More on Chertoff from the New Yorker, November 5, 2001:
“Since the September 11th terrorist attacks, Chertoff’s office has become the funnel for what is probably the most important criminal investigation in American history, as prosecutors and F.B.I. investigators pour in to seek the boss’s approval. What leads can we use from the search of a hijacker’s car in Portland, Maine? Where do the hijackers’ credit-card records lead?… For day-to-day decisions, Chertoff has the last word…”Graduating from Harvard Law School, in 1978… he served as a model for an intense and brilliant character in his classmate Scott Turow’s book “One L,”…Link
Though el-Amir’s HMO was known to be affiliated with bin Laden since the mid-1990s, Chertoff offers an alternate view of the HMO’s financial statements. From The Record, December 18, 1998:
“Elamir’s attorney, Michael Chertoff, the former U.S. attorney in Newark, offered the doctor’s first in-depth defense to the state charges Thursday, insisting that Elamir had not misappropriated any funds from APPP [el-Amir’s HMO].” Link
Also from The Record, December 16, 1998:
“Michael Chertoff, a former U.S. attorney who is Elamir’s attorney, said the state’s papers don’t give the complete picture of the company’s finances. “It’s a one-sided picture of what’s going on,” he said.” It would be unfortunate if the state’s approach is to find someone to punish, rather than solve the problem.
“Chertoff said Elamir would like to work with the state in its effort to rehabilitate the HMO.” Link
Chertoff’s comments on the case made The New York Times on December 18, 1998:
“”Dr. Elamir’s lawyer, Michael Chertoff, said that all transactions were approved by state agencies and that his client has done nothing improper.” Link
The Bergen Record printed a post-trial wrap-up of the case on February 22, 2000:
“A year after a Medicaid HMO accused of misusing state and federal funds was dissolved by the state, its founder is still enjoying a millionaire’s income while the hospitals and doctors who allegedly were defrauded delay programs for the poor and fight for restitution…”APPP’s founder, Saddle River neurologist Magdy Elamir, continues to practice medicine in a Jersey City storefront office and lives in a $ 1.8 million mansion in one of Bergen County’s toniest suburbs, court records show. His car leases alone total $ 65,000 per year, the records show.
“The Egyptian immigrant also operates a chain of MRI facilities in Newark, Irvington, and Paterson, a limousine company, and a medical management company. Combined with his medical practice, his income totals more than $ 18,000 weekly, nearly $ 1 million a year, records show.”
A REPUBLICAN VOICE FOR THE DOWNTRODDEN
‘”He’s still in good spirits,” said Michael Chertoff, the former U.S. attorney in Newark whom Elamir hired as his defense lawyer.”
“Public records in the civil case contain no reference to a criminal investigation, but court officials said some documents in the case were under seal. The state Attorney General’s Office would neither confirm nor deny an investigation. The state’s Medicaid fraud division is not involved in the case, a Medicaid spokesman said”…
“Elamir’s property and bank accounts are worth more than $ 8.8 million, according to his financial statement, but mortgages and other liens reduce his net worth to $ 760,000″… Link
Why would New Jersey’s Top Attorney Michael Chertoff represent a person of el-Amir’s relatively modest financial position? Though comfortable, el-Amir had failed to reach millionaire status. Not exactly Chertoff’s typical clientele, as reported by The Bergen Record on June 19, 2000:
“New Jersey is home to about 65,000 lawyers, some of whom are quite good at what they do. But if the state had a First Lawyer, or a Lawyer Laureate, it just might be Michael Chertoff…
“His counsel is sought by public corporations, politicians, government agencies, and high-profile defendants…
“Columbia/HCA, the health-care consortium… is the ninth-largest employer in the United States… As the lead attorney for Columbia, Chertoff negotiated a partial settlement of the case in May for about $ 745 million…
“When he entered private practice, Chertoff said he would not represent drug dealers and mobsters, preferring to work for “decent people.”‘ Link
Well, after all, it was only a preference.