An eyewitness to pre-9.11 intrigue in San Diego involving the infiltration of as many as 200 still-unknown Middle Eastern men into the U.S. received a death threat in the middle of the night of June 3rd from  an Iranian exile, former SAVAK agent, arms dealer for the Shah of Iran and convicted felon.

Joe Cicchese, a witness quoted in a recent story in the MadCowMorningNews was threatened with his life 1SAVAKin a brief but chilling 4.30 a.m. phone call from 53-year old Sam Koutchesfahani, with whom he hadn’t spoken since they worked together 10 years ago in a San Diego-area motel.

In a voicemail message , Cicchese sounded clearly frightened. “Hi Daniel this is Joe Cicchese, I’m sure you remember the name…I just got a phone call which I have to admit has kind of rattled me to the core, and I recognized the voice as our buddy, threatening to take me out if I didn’t keep my mouth shut.”

Greetings from Tehran

“I don’t know how the hell he would find me here…this is really bizarre, and I’m not quite sure what the next step is,” he continued.

“I’m not sure what to do, or what the hell to trust right now…You’ve got my number and my email. Talk to you soon. Hopefully you’re well.”

The incident began, Cicchese said, when he groggily picked up the phone and heard a voice asked gruffly, “Is this Joe Cicchese?”

“I said, ‘Yes, can I help you?’” stated Cicchese. "'’This is Rahim,’ said the voice.  ‘Just remember that name. Keep your mouth shut, or we’re going to take you out.’

In the aftermath of the incident the MadCowMorningNews renewed its probe into Koutchesfahani, and we have discovered his story contains several implausible but real connections with  the scandal unfolding currently embroiling Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay, and unregulated casinos.

"Let sleeping dogs lie" must not be a proverb in Persia.

"A tire iron for your thoughts."

“Rahim” is indeed Koutchesfahani’s real first name, we learned, after contacting a former U.S. operative who spent much of the 1970’s in Iran and is still in close contact with a gaggle of Generals among the Iranian exile community in Southern California forced to flee when the Shah was deposed.

Cicchese had heard Koutchesfahani call himself "Rahim." 1thinkfirstHe recognized Koutchesfahani’s voice immediately, though the men’s paths hadn't crossed since a decade earlier at The Moonlight Beach Lodge Motel in Carlsbad, an upscale San Diego suburb.  

“He was always trying to fake an Indian accent,” said Joe. “I’d heard Sam fake an Indian accent a million times at the motel, to size up people coming to rent rooms to see how much they could pay.”

The next morning, Cicchese reported the death threat to the Corvallis Oregon police. An officer told him several days ago that they have called in the FBI on the case.

Cicchese had reason to be frightened. Incurring Sam’s wrath could apparently involve tire irons…

“He told me he did arms deals for the Shah,” said Cicchese. “And I believed it, because he was a really violent character. He and I didn’t get along too well, because I didn’t hide the fact that he didn’t know the first thing about motel management.”

A host of non-technical applications

“Then one day he called me into his office because he was pissed about something,” Cicchese continued, “and he told me he was going to beat me with a tire iron.”

“Later that day I had to leave the front desk for some reason, and I saw Sam walking towards me up the center drive running through the motel, and he had a tire iron in his hand!”

“And a customer came up to him and asked him about something, and Sam kept looking back and forth between the customer and me the whole time he talked with him. If that customer hadn’t stopped him, I think he was going to hit me with it.”

When a man who walks around brandishing tire irons delivers a death threat, people listen. It must clearly be taken seriously. We pondered the incident, looking for a reason to explain the threat…

Sam Koutchesfahani has never been questioned in connection with 9.11, to our knowledge.

1sThe MadCowMorningNews was first to report evidence of his association in San Diego with Abdussattar Shaikh, a man called the "best chance to uncover the Sept. 11 plot before it happened” in the Congressional 9.11 Intelligence Committee report.

Both Abdussattar Shaikh and Sam Koutchesfahani worked, strangely enough, for the San Diego FBI as confidential informants. Both have changed their names.

Koutchesfahani later admitted in court that during this same time period he was running a network in San Diego which successfully infiltrated several hundred Middle Eastern men illegally into the United States.

No wonder he doesn't want any witnesses talking.

A utility player covers all the bases.

In a bizarre twist, Koutchesfahani was also been the owner of the mansion where 39 Heaven’s Gate cultists committed suicide in nearby Rancho Santa Fe in March of 1997, we learned from researcher Kelly Cooke, both of whose parents perished with the cult.

1heffA check of court documents reveals that Koutchesfahani had been a full-time confidential informant for the San Diego FBI at the same time he served as the cultist’s landlord.

In an even more bizarre twist, Cooke said, at the time of the Heaven’s Gate cult suicide the FBI had been running a massive operation, called—you won’t believe this—“Operation Heaven's Gate.”

(This must all just be freak coincidence. When Koutchesfahani phoned his death threat to Joe Cicchese, the call hadn’t been from prison.)

Strangely, there are also suggestions that there may be links between the world of the much-traveled Koutchesfahani and that of Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff, currently embroiled in a scandal which one wit called “Dances With Sharks.”

In a 2003 filing in U. S. Bankruptcy Court in San Diego, for example, Koutchesfahani stated he had been doing business under the name TAN TRADING AND CONSULTING GROUP.

Abramoff’s and Delay’s partner in crime in the Mariana's was Asian Underworld biggie Willie Tan, whose Tan Holding Company ran gambling casinos as well as sweatshops accused of slave labor.

Making up the 'truth' as they go along… and getting away with it.

1WILLIE1Could these business entities somehow be related? Reinforcing this suspicion is the striking similarity between Koutchesfahani’s and Abramoff’s treatment of the truth.

In the same way that flight schools in Florida provided “cover” for Mohamed Atta and his terrorist pals, a handful of bogus “Universities” in San Diego appear to have provided cover for another contingent of suspected terrorists.

And Koutchesfahani himself tried to pass himself off as a Psychologist with California authorities through use of a bogus PhD. His efforts met with some success… The Nov 16, 1997 Chicago Tribune called him “San Diego psychologist Sam Koutchesfahani, though his “doctorate” was from a diploma mill called “Newport University.”

Here’s a description of the campus of "Newport University" from the June 09, 1996 SALT LAKE TRIBUNE:

“A couple of clunker cars sit in the driveway of a 40-year-old brick house, which sits squarely in a commercial zone: a hardware store in back, an equipment-rental company in front and a McDonald's expanding up the street.”1newportu

”The back yard has an old cedar fence, a rusting clothesline and an overgrown shade tree. Inside the house, a secondhand desk, some office chairs, bookshelves and a pair of torch lamps are assembled in the living room…”

“Welcome to Newport University, Utah's newest private college.”

A think tank for the ages.

Compare this charade with testimony this week in the Abramoff/Delay Tribal and Casino Gambling Scandal showing an oddly similar attitude towards the truth.

Hired to promote Indian tribes' casino interests in Washington, Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s modus operandi also involved use of bogus organizations and dummy corporations and think tanks…

Abramoff charged exorbitant fees for work he didn't do, and set up fake charities to shelter the ill-gotten gains. There were phony grass-roots Christian groups. Phony billing statements. And nonprofits with phony purposes.

1TAXPhoniest of all was the "premiere international think tank" called the American International Center through which rivers of cash was funneled.

Senate investigators discovered the “think tank” was being “run” by two boyhood friends of Abramoff partner Michael Scanlon: a yoga instructor and a lifeguard named David Grosh, who brought the Senate hearing to a halt with laughter during his testimony about how he had been selected to run an international think tank.

The American International Centre was promoted as "bringing great minds together from all over the globe" under the "high-power directorship" of Mann and Grosh.

Yet Grosh told John McCain’s Senate hearing on Indian Gambling that Scanlon had simply asked him, "Want to be head of an international corporation?"

"I was like, sure," said Grosh. "It was a hard one to turn down. I asked him what I had to do, and he said 'Nothing'. So that sounded pretty good to me."

Thus Grosh became the director of the grandly titled and totally fictitious "American International Centre," used to launder millions of dollars back to Abramoff and Scanlon.

One beneficiary was President George W. Bush. Abramoff was his chief fundraiser.

Grosh prepared a two-sentence statement to preface his day on Capitol Hill. "I'm embarrassed and disgusted to be a part of this whole thing. The Lakota Indians have a word, wasichu, which aptly describes all of us right now."

He did not elaborate, but reporters learned that ‘wasichu’ means "he who steals the fat.”

"Go long till I trip the referee."

1fbiSomething about this story seemed out of the same “playbook” used by Abdussattar Shaikh, the key 9.11 witness nobody heard testify because of the FBI’s unconstitutional refusal to produce him before Congress.

Imagine the Watergate Hearings without John Dean.

Incredibly, while working as a confidential informant for the San Diego FBI, Shaikh had two of the hijackers living in his house in San Diego.

When the FBI claims ignorance (hard not to believe about the FBI), their claim of ignorance strains credulity past the breaking point, and leaves the distinct impression that there is far more going on here than is visible so far.

A homemaker who lives next door to Shaikh's house, for example, told the FBI she is "positive" she saw Mohamed Atta there. Marna Adair said the polite, clean-shaven Atta was frequently at the home of 1attaAbdussattar Shaikh between August and early December of 2000.

Several other neighbors testified told the FBI the same thing. Deborah Fortner remembered Atta "was the one that was scary. He's got these piercing eyes. That's something you never forget about him."

Sounds like our boy. But what was he doing with Shaikh?

Shaikh was identified in wire reports as “a retired professor of English at San Diego State,” and “Vice President for International Projects at American Commonwealth University.”

But a MadCowMorningNews investigation revealed that Shaikh’s status as a “professor” was merely his ‘cover.’

Abdussattar Shaikh never taught at San Diego State, has never been a Professor of English, and possesses a phony PhD from a bogus diploma mill run by people with U.S. military and intelligence connections.

The "University" for which he was said to be ‘Vice President for International Projects’ does not, in fact, exist.

And—if that weren’t enough to raise eyebrows skyward— ‘Abdussattar Shaikh" is not his real name.

The lighter side of the news

The just-released Internal review of the Sept. 11 attacks states that the FBI investigated whether Shaikh was involved in the attack.

“A polygraph was inconclusive, but the San Diego FBI concluded he had not been part of the plot.”

This is truly chilling news… so chilling that we think it best to close on a lighter note:

Undeterred by the intense controversy over GOP lobbyist Abramoff’s dealings with Indian tribes and their casino interests, Rep. J.D. Hayworth, (R-Ariz.) pushed for a bill this week which would exempt all American Indian businesses (especially casinos) from federal labor laws.

We admit to a back-handed admiration for the efforts of a man who refuses to be slowed or stifled by his unfortunate resemblance to a cloning experiment grafting human cells to those of a pig. But someone in his position, we believe firmly, should pay especial attention to timing.

Daniel Hopsicker

Daniel Hopsicker is an investigative journalist and the author of two books on transnational crime, Welcome to Terrorland and Barry & the Boys.

1 Response

  1. adam says:

    " 'The Nazarene Eleven' by Anthony Mitchell– a tale of murder, mystery, and intrigue, that explores the international web of conspiracy surrounding America's number one enemy, Bin Laden. The plot is packed with so many twists and turns, it is compulsive 'first to last page' reading. Author Dan Goldstone lands a lucrative contract to pen a novel of intrigue. Together with his wife, Ikes, who doubles as his unpaid researcher, they head for Chicago and the colossal Sears Tower. When they discover that they are being tailed, and that their tail has been murdered, they are inexorably drawn into a complex web of deception. All trails seem to lead to Saudi billionaire and international backer of terrorism, Bin Laden. Is he planning to obliterate Sears Tower, or is that just a smoke screen for something far more dastardly? When Dan and Ikes unearth indisputable proof that the Heavens Gate cult was murdered, the real target of Bin Laden's deception becomes even less clear. Eventually, finding themselves squeezed between the FBI, Mossad and Bin Laden, they find an unlikely ally in FBI Commander, William Woods. Will Commander Woods uncover the truth behind the murder of the Heavens Gate cult, in time to thwart Bin Laden? Or will Bin Laden prove, yet again, to have the upper hand in his holy 'Jihad' against the US? "

    Published in December, 2000.

    Just found the summary interesting.