By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Williams's mother, Elizabeth McWilliams, tells the Voice that Malik approached her son with an offer of monetary assistance for her ailing younger son, Lord McWilliams, 20.
"He told my son [David] that he was going to help with the bills," she says. "He only met him [Malik] in March. My son came to me and said, 'Mom, don't worry about Lord. I met this Muslim brother who says he's going to help us.' "
Her younger son had signed up for the U.S. Navy and was preparing to ship off to boot camp when he was diagnosed with the disease. He was hospitalized for three months and had his spleen removed. Malik not only offered to help with her son's bills, McWilliams says, but also talked about sending him to Universal Studios, the Florida amusement park, when he was well enough to travel.
McWilliams says that Malik was supposed to hand over the cash on the very day that the police made the arrests.
Her son has been taken away, but the medical bills remain. "Right now, we're waiting to see a specialist in Manhattan," she says. "The liver is enlarged right now. We'll have to do another biopsy. He goes to Westchester every Thursday to have his blood checked."
Kathleen Baynes, girlfriend of defendant James Cromitie, says Malik was always around, driving in one luxury car or another—a Mercedes, a BMW, a Hummer, an Expedition, a tan Jeep.
"At one point, he promised to give James $10,000 with no problem," she says. "He came around so much that it was like he was stalking us. James would hide from him."
Baynes says that Malik also gave his targets large amounts of marijuana. He offered to pay an outstanding fine that Baynes owed. He gave the couple $217 for rent. He bought chicken and soda for the family. He paid for a birthday party for Baynes's child. He took them out to dinner on several occasions. He gave away a cell phone. He promised to buy the child a kid-size motor scooter. He offered to give Cromitie his BMW, and bought him a camera.
Baynes says she never heard her boyfriend make comments about Afghanistan: "He just liked to work and play video games and smoke a little weed."
Once, Baynes says, Cromitie was in North Carolina. Malik called him and demanded that he return to New York. "Brother," he said to Cromitie, according to Baynes, "You bring your ass the fuck back, and I will pay you even more. I'll send you a plane ticket."
"I was always skeptical," Baynes says. "I would say to James, 'What the hell is going on with this man? Something is not right. He's fraudulent, a fake.' He just came up here and ruined a lot of lives."
Malik came to the attention of law enforcement in 2002, when he was seen hanging around the Albany office of the State Department of Motor Vehicles.
Although he owned a dollar store, Malik approached people at the DMV offices offering his services as an interpreter. He would tell immigrants that the written test for a driver's license was very difficult and that, for a price, he would take the tests for them. He fraudulently took tests for other people about 90 times before he was arrested.
Things soon got worse for him. He declared bankruptcy in the summer of 2003. Then, in October, a building he owned was destroyed in a fire—it was uninsured, and he lost everything.
With so many setbacks at one time in his life, Malik may not have been difficult to persuade to accept work as an FBI informant in return for wiping away his criminal case and the assurances that he wouldn't be deported.
His first case: helping the agency set up a sting to catch two DMV employees who had aided him in his own illegal schemes.
Next, he was given the names of men who wanted to distribute heroin. Malik wore a wire, bought some of the heroin, and even received a shipment of the stuff from Afghanistan. In that case, 11 people were arrested and pleaded guilty. One man escaped and became a fugitive.
Then began an even more elaborate case. In what may have been their first meeting, the pizzeria owner and father of six, Mohammed Hossain, approached Malik in July 2003, asking for help in obtaining a DMV learner's permit for his brother.
After gaining Hossain's trust, Malik spun a remarkable tale over the next few months: He was actually a wealthy arms importer who backed radical Islamic groups. He told Hossain that he was a smuggler bringing Stinger missiles into the U.S. and laundering the money to pay for them. He eventually claimed that he had been hired by a group of terrorists to bring a shoulder-mounted rocket into New York to assassinate Pakistani prime minister Pervez Musharraf. And he said he would eventually be paid $50,000 to do it.
Malik asked Hossain to loan him $50,000, and Hossain consented, with Malik agreeing to pay the money back at a rate of $2,000 per month. According to Islamic custom, such an informal loan needed a witness. Hossain brought in Yassin Aref, his imam at the local mosque, Masjid Al-Salam.