'The Individuals That Mr. Glass Has Dealt With Are Essentially Terrorists.'
Taliban Showed Interest In Boca Snitch
by John Pacenti
The Palm Beach Post
September 29, 2001
Randy Glass chatted up diamond wholesalers as easily as shadowy arms dealers looking to buy missiles for terrorists.
The former Boca Raton jeweler's talents made him the consummate con man, accused of bilking people out of millions of dollars worldwide.
Those skills also suited him for work as a prized government snitch.
Facing a substantial federal prison sentence for 13 felonies in 1998, Glass put his skills into overdrive on numerous undercover investigations, transforming himself into what a prosecutor called "one of the most prolific informants the world has ever seen."
He might have gotten close to associates of Osama bin Laden, the most wanted man on Earth whose vast terrorist network has been blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks. Glass was the government's go-to guy in a 31-month investigation into the attempted sale of military weapons - Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, night-vision goggles, even nuclear weapon components - to various groups in foreign countries, including Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, which has been secreting bin Laden.
The probe led to the arrest of two New Jersey men - Egyptian national Diaa Badr Mohsen and Pakistani native Mohammed "Mike" Malik - in June at a West Palm Beach warehouse. Two others were arrested in Fort Lauderdale on related money-laundering charges.
But the attorneys for the two New Jersey men say Glass conned them into thinking they themselves were working for the U.S. government to either facilitate a legitimate arms deal or catch terrorists. It was all part of Glass' scheme to reduce his own sentence, they say.
"The more we learn about Mr. Glass, the stronger our case gets," said attorney Val Rodriguez, who represents Mohsen.
If Glass was blowing smoke, the government was pouring the fuel for the fire.
Members of three federal agencies - the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and Customs - went before a federal judge on July 9, 1999, to ask that Glass remain out of prison to work on multiple "undercover matters." They said national security, as well as Glass' life, was at stake, especially now that bin Laden appeared to be involved.
Bin Laden had been tied to the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.
"I mean, he is the most wanted individual in the world at this time," ATF agent Steve Barborini told U.S. District Judge Wilkie D. Ferguson. "And at this point, that is a major concern."
Ferguson was skeptical. "National security interests will be triggered, but what we have so far, I guess, is talk," he said. "I can't see that Mr. Glass ever paid the price for any of his misdeeds. He has a way of getting out of everything."
But the judge deferred to the agents, allowing Glass to remain free.
When it finally came time to sentence Glass last year, prosecutors gushed over his work.
"He has met with individuals in Pakistan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Republic of Congo, in South America and West Africa, as well," Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Karadbil told a judge on May 19, 2000. "The individuals that Mr. Glass has dealt with are essentially terrorists. They are without question dangerous individuals."
Glass, 49, was sentenced to 20 months in prison last year, but remained free while working for the government. After the arrests of the four men in June, Glass' sentence was cut again to seven months, which he is now serving in a prison at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle.
Series of scams, cons
Glass' metamorphosis from con artist to informant started in 1998 when he was arrested for bilking $6 million from diamond and jewelry wholesalers worldwide.
Glass wrote worthless checks and made up stories that he had been burglarized or robbed of precious jewels, investigators said. The victims were from South America, Belgium, New York, California, Toronto and South Florida.
He was accused of laundering $1 million in drug money and filing a $1 million false burglary claim from Palm Beach Jewelry Center on Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach and a false report that he was robbed of $250,000 in diamonds on a Chicago street corner by two black men in camouflage.
During "Operation Diamondback," as the probe was called, investigators gathered information about other Glass capers.
For years, the man known as Randy Goldberg back in his native Baltimore had used his charm as a means to scam.
"He's got that kind of personality that anything he says to anybody, people believe him," said Carolyn Furst, a Lighthouse Point jeweler who worked with Glass briefly in the early 1990s. "I don't know anybody who has been fleeced by him who doesn't think he is a hell of a nice guy."
In 1990, he was able to "convince two desperate owners/sellers of a $500,000 Pompano Beach home to take what Randy claimed was $200,000 worth of rare stamps as down payment," according to information gathered by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.
When the owners discovered the stamps were worthless, they tried to back out of the contract. Glass sued, tying up the property until he received $5,000 in a settlement, according to the PBSO report.
In 1993, Glass convinced a 70-year-old man to loan him $200,000, the report said. As collateral, he put up some jewelry that the victim discovered was fake after Glass reneged on the loan. The man sued and got a judgment against Glass, according to the report.
In 1995, Glass was charged with luring two Brazilians to a Pompano Beach bank with promises of paying them $1.5 million for rough-cut diamonds. Inside the bank, Glass locked the jewels in a safe deposit box. Detectives said he was trying to steal the gems to pay back some Belgians he had conned in 1993. He pleaded guilty to grand theft and returned the gems.
In Glass' shop on Palmetto Park Road in Boca Raton, he would often deal his diamonds and move money from one bank account to another and back again within a few hours, Furst said. When a customer came in, he would order Furst and Jennifer Donnelly - Glass' wife, co-worker and later codefendant - into a back room where there was a gun in the safe.
"He said if anybody pulls anything, pull out the gun. We were just like there to protect him," Furst said. "It was like the blind leading the blind."
Glass and Donnelly hosted champagne auctions to raise money for the United Cerebral Palsy of Palm Beach and other charities, including a home for abused teenagers.
Despite his charm, Glass' personal life was often in turmoil. He has been married five times. Police records show that in 1997, one of his ex-wives, Jan Yager, said she was intentionally hit by a red car as she walked on her Boca Raton street. She told police she believed the driver was Glass because she was arguing with him over visitation rights to their son. Glass was not charged.
"He has a charisma about him that everybody seemed to love but when you see him on a daily basis, he had a very short temper," Furst said. "He could blow up on a drop of a dime."
Donnelly's attorney, Richard L. Rosenbaum, said it wouldn't surprise him if Glass set up people into thinking they were government operatives.
"It wouldn't shock me at all. He's a scammer all day and all night," Rosenbaum said. "He could sell you ice cubes in Alaska. He is not the kind of person you want to see our government rewarding with a reduced sentence."
Donnelly pleaded guilty to two fraud counts. Glass, hit with 13 felony charges, started to cooperate with the government.
By the time Glass pleaded guilty last year, the 13 felonies had been dropped and two counts of fraud had taken their place.
When it came time for sentencing, the prosecutor - normally the defendant's adversary - appeared to be in awe of Glass.
"He is an individual who is very bright, beyond any kind of degree that a person could have," Karadbil said. "He is someone who is able to move in any type of social circle. . . . He has a tremendous gift of gab, tremendous resourcefulness."
According to Karadbil, Glass:
- Provided information for the FBI, the ATF, the Secret Service, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.
- Helped recover a 30-plus carat diamond stolen in the armed robbery of $2.5 million in jewels from a Palm Beach jewelry store. The FBI was then able to arrest the robbers and their fence.
- Worked with the New York City FBI regarding forged Picasso and Reubens paintings and the recovery of two burial masks, said to be more than 30 centuries old, stolen from Egyptian museums.
- Helped the Secret Service expose a counterfeit operation of fake $100 bills supplied through Guyana.
The prosecutor also said Glass' son had information about the beating death of Adam Jones that occurred after a Boca Raton birthday party was broken up by police on Feb. 26, 2000. Karadbil said the information led to the arrest of Derrick Acklin, who was convicted of battery for hitting Jones and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Most federal investigations are cloaked in secrecy, so it's hard to corroborate Glass' involvement in these cases. Karadbil declined to comment.
When Palm Beach police announced the arrest of three men in the robbery of Richters jewelry store on Worth Avenue, it acknowledged the help of an FBI informant. A source close to the Richters investigation confirmed that Glass played a role.
However, New York newspapers reported that a stock fraudster had helped police nab members of the Gambino crime family peddling the fake Picasso and Reubens pieces.
Glass' lawyer - his brother, Gerald - did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Taliban tried to buy weapons
Of all Glass' reported missions, the most wide-reaching by far was the weapons sting.
Soon after he was charged in the fraud case, Glass told agents he knew of an arms dealer, a gambling buddy from New Jersey named Diaa Mohsen.
Agents fitted Glass with a wire and tapped his phone, according to transcripts of court hearings.
Mohsen, an Egyptian national, led Glass to a former Egyptian judge named Shireen Shawky, federal agents told Judge Ferguson in 1999.
Shawky, ready to front $2 million of his own money, tried to broker a deal for weapons. Shawky was shopping on behalf of buyers in the civil war-ravaged Congo, but after a peace accord there, he looked for possible buyers elsewhere.
The night before the July 1999 hearing, a phone conversation revealed the interest of the Taliban.
"That group is presently seeking arms on behalf of themselves, and maybe for the benefit of bin Laden," ATF agent Barborini told the judge.
Shawky had set up a bank account in Boca Raton for the arms deal, Barborini said.
Mohsen asked about grenade launchers, machine guns, anti-tank missiles, a component for a nuclear weapon and Stinger missiles, according to a federal arrest report. In the 1980s, Afghan and Muslim rebels, including bin Laden, used U.S.-supplied Stinger missiles to bring down Soviet aircraft. Up to 100 unused Stingers remain in the hands of the Taliban or bin Laden, arms experts believe.
Mohsen and Malik were arrested June 12 after inspecting a Stinger missile in a West Palm Beach warehouse. They were charged with violating the Arms Export Control Act. The men who brought the missile to the warehouse were undercover agents.
Photographs obtained by The Palm Beach Post show a gloating Glass and a man defense attorneys believe is Shawky holding Stingers and other weapons. One photo also shows Glass counting cash with other men, possibly federal agents.
Agents also nabbed one-time Wall Street high-flyer Kevin Ingram and Connecticut airplane broker Walter Kapij in a related money laundering scheme. Ingram has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Prosecutors do not plan to call Glass to testify, according to defense lawyers. Past experience might be why. The last time the government called Glass as a witness in a trial, it backfired.
In a 1999 contempt of court hearing for famed defense attorney F. Lee Bailey, who was accused of taking a client's money for legal fees when it should have been forfeited to the government, Glass took the stand and claimed Bailey tried to have Glass fence $1 million in jewelry. Bailey accused Glass of lying and Glass refused to answer questions on cross-examination about his plea deal in the West Palm Beach case. Glass' testimony was tossed out.
Bailey was eventually found in contempt of court but wasn't jailed or fined.
Outside of court, Bailey said Glass had asked him to talk to the U.S. secretary of defense about getting Glass a reduced sentence in his West Palm Beach case if Glass turned in an international terrorist. Bailey said he threw him out of his office.
Now, in the wake of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, the FBI hasn't even talked to Malik, said his lawyer, James Eisenberg.
Mohsen offered on his own to help the government investigate the Sept. 11 attacks, Rodriguez said. When Mohsen was arrested, he had a card in his wallet from an FBI agent working on a terrorism task force, Rodriguez said.
"We have every reason to believe Glass duped the government during this investigation," Rodriguez said. "At no time did they have control of what he did."
Rodriguez and Eisenberg say their clients began looking for weapons because Glass fooled them into thinking they all were working for the government. Eisenberg said Malik brought in a Pakistani government official, Mohammed Abbas, and thought the arms deal was legitimate.
When prosecutors praised Glass' work to Judge Ferguson last year, the judge was wary. "I don't want to become duped," the judge said, adding he didn't want to end up just another of Glass' marks.
He did, however, eventually reduce Glass' sentence to just seven months.
Glass had wanted mere house arrest. In a sealed motion, he said the prosecutor downplayed his role.
He said his contacts helped the government prevent a bombing at the U.S. Embassy in India and led to the arrest of eight people in Yemen related to last year's suicide bombing of the USS Cole, in which 17 sailors died.
This month, the judge refunded Glass' $75,000 bond even though he has been ordered to pay $4 million in restitution to the fraud victims.
"It appears that Mr. Glass is one of the more prolific informants the world has ever seen, and one of the more successful, and got one of the best deals the world has ever seen," said Eisenberg, Malik's attorney.
Staff writer Kathryn Quigley contributed to this story.
Copyright 2001 Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
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