Accused Orange County Terrorism Suspect: FBI is Using Secrecy to Mask a Bad Case

FBI terrorism suspect OC 2.jpg
Did Big Momma catch a Buena Park-tied terrorist plot?
A lawyer representing an Orange County CVS pharmacist accused in 2011 of lying to the FBI about her role in funding international terrorism claims the government's case is weak and that prosecutors are abusing foreign intelligence secrecy rules.

Defending Oytun Ayse Mihalik against the charge when the government has sealed alleged evidence against her "is the equivalent of inviting the defense counsel into a boxing match with the caveat that the defense counsel must be blindfolded before entering the ring," according to Alan Eisner, Mihalik's Van Nuys-based lawyer.

Eisner is asking U.S. District Court Judge Josephine Staton Tucker to order the unsealing of a series of records the government filed under seal in connection with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

This week, Assistant United States Attorney Judith A. Heinz, who works in the National Security Section at the Department of Justice (DOJ), said that Congress requires FISA information to be filed under seal and that Eisner has not provided any valid reason to make public certain classified records.

But Eisner believes that the government's secrecy is masking a weak case against Mihalik, who lived in La Palma.

"The evidence, even in a light most favorable to the [DOJ], reveals just how far Ms. Mihalik was removed from any terrorist organization or plot," he wrote in May 17 brief. "Ms. Mihalik never met the individual with whom she communicated. Ms. Mihalik never attended any terrorist training camp. Ms. Mihalik was never privy to any specific terrorism plot. Ms. Mihalik never offered any advice for any terrorism attack. The organization with whom Ms. Mihalik was allegedly communicating is not listed in the United States' list of terrorist organizations."

According to Eisner, Mihalik merely sent "a little more than two thousand dollars in the span of a month" overseas and claims the government "has not proffered any evidence that Ms. Mihalik's conduct involved any intelligence that, if revealed, would be a threat to the United States."
But according to FBI Special Agent Siddhartha Patel, Mihalik--a native of Turkey--had arranged a suspicious marriage to remain in the U.S. and used a fake name--Cindy Palmer--when she wired funds from a Buena Park Ralph's grocery story in late 2010 to persons in Pakistan and Turkey.

Though a portion of the evidence remains sealed, FBI agents obviously believe Mihalik's money was going to help terrorist efforts to kill U.S. soldiers or citizens.

On August 26, 2011, Mihalik and her husband met with the FBI in Santa Ana. The agents raised suspicions about the marriage and her activities.

The next day, she bought a one-way ticket to Istanbul via London on American Airlines and found herself under arrest at LAX.

According to Patel, Mihalik--who was born in 1972 and remains in custody--repeatedly lied to the FBI when she claimed she sent the money using her real name.

Mihalik has not been charged with any terrorism crimes.

Judge Tucker is scheduled to hear both sides argue over FISA secrecy in the case on June 4 at the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana.

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Dec. 21, 2011 - The indictment alleges three counts of providing money to an individual in Pakistan, knowing that the money would be used to prepare for and carry out attacks that would kill U.S. military personnel and other persons overseas. Mihalik allegedly sent a total of $2,050 in three wire transfers to the person in Pakistan over the course of three weeks at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011.

The charge of providing material support to terrorists carries a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison. The superseding indictment filed on Dec. 21, 2011 adds the three counts of providing material support to terrorists.


First of all, how can someone be "accused," and a "suspect," at the same time?  So, basically it's okay if the FBI suppresses exculpatory evidence because they, are what .... held to a different standard that everyone else?  Come on.  This is simply a case of botched investigatory work that is embarrassing to the FBI and they don't want it to come out.  

Sort of like when the San Bernardino County DA, Michael Ramos, charged ME for battery on peace officers after I was beat in custody by five male Big Bear Sheriffs while State Bar of California Investigator (and ex-LA Sheriff) Tom Layton looked on to make sure the State Bar's message got across loud and clear:  "Shut the hell up." 

That must have been very embarrassing for Michael Ramos and Rod Hoops; made even more horrifying when I didn't "just go away" like most people would.  Instead, my Section 1983 Civil Rights Case is before the US Supreme Court on First Amendment retaliatory prosecution claims.  

The FBI should let it go.  If the County of San Bernardino and Michael Ramos had been smart, they would have taken care of my medical bills and paid a decent settlement.  Instead, they implicated just about every SB County agency to cover it up and now it's going to cost them 100 times more in a settlement and the embarrassment will be unbearable.  

Erin BaldwinJournalist & Consumer Advocate

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