Black Muslim security firm makes false claims in bid to secure Port of Oakland contract
The Elijah’s University Institute of Islamic Studies building is seen from 27th Street in West Oakland on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. The building houses the office of BMT International Security Services. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
By Thomas Peele and Matt O’Brien
The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — A security guard company tied to the defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery made grand claims about its credentials to win a job patrolling two parks at the Port of Oakland, but an investigation by this newspaper shows the proposal is littered with falsehoods.
As part of its list of qualifications, BMT International Security Services listed four government contracts that do not exist, people speaking for those agencies said, including purported work for BART and the San Joaquin County Housing Authority. The firm also included resume information for its officers, ranging from a Harvard education to membership in various law enforcement organizations, that is contradicted by the organizations listed.
The port commission voted late last year to award BMT, the low bidder, a $450,000 contract to patrol more than 40 acres of waterfront. Deputy Port Director Jean Banker told commissioners at the time that the bidders had been subjected to a “thorough, objective” evaluation process. The port is conducting a further “due diligence” examination of BMT as it negotiates the final terms of the deal.
Port spokeswoman Marilyn Sandifur declined to discuss this newspaper’s findings or make Banker or Executive Director J. Christopher Lytle available for interviews. BMT owner Rory Parker did not return messages.
Earlier this month, the Oakland City Council rejected a BMT proposal to guard City Hall after this newspaper reported the company won an Alameda County contract in 2012 based on what turned out to be false insurance and licensing documents. That deal was terminated less than a year later, after the county became aware of some of the irregularities.
The Housing Authority of the city of Los Angeles also terminated its contract with BMT on Thursday after this newspaper’s findings caused the agency to reexamine the firm. BMT submitted fraudulent insurance certification last year to win part of a $5.5 million contract to guard public housing, said spokeswoman Annie Kim.
BMT is run from a temple on 27th Street in Oakland called Elijah’s University. Temple leader Dahood Sharieff Bey is a disciple of bakery founder and former mayoral candidate Yusuf Bey, who died in 2003. Yusuf Bey touted his bakery as an advocacy organization for African-American self help, but prosecutors have called it a cult that ran a wide-ranging criminal enterprise, committing crimes from real estate and mortgage fraud to murder.
The bakery collapsed in 2007 after Yusuf Bey’s son, Yusuf Bey IV, ordered the murders of three men including journalist Chauncey Bailey, who was working on a story about the group. Bey IV is now serving a life sentence in prison. He has appealed.
No port documents list Dahood Bey as a BMT executive, but he has represented the firm at public meetings, and another former bakery member, Nedir Bey, has spoken in support of it. Nedir Bey was head of a bakery home-health aide business, EM Health, that borrowed more than $1 million from the city of Oakland and closed a year later without repaying the money.
Dahood Bey’s mother, Parker, owns BMT but recently said publicly she is too ill to run it.
Another former bakery associate, Basheer Muhammad, also known as Benjamin Jones, is BMT’s most public voice. He is listed as the company’s operations officer. ¿Muhammad and Dahood Bey were tried together for torture in 2010 and pleaded guilty to lesser charges when the jury could not reach a verdict. Muhammad was also convicted of false imprisonment in 1994.
BMT’s 14-page proposal to the port paints itself as an amply qualified firm, with employees and directors who are former “U.S. Marshals, Navy Seals, and Secret Service Agents all of whom specialize in tactical planning.” It continues, “BMT serves over 43 cities along the coast of California, spanning from Chico to San Diego.”
That contention, which suggests a firm with a substantial workforce, is at odds with what a port staff member told commissioners in December: BMT would not have to abide by the port’s minimum-wage rules because “they are a very small business with less than 21 employees.”
The firm’s claims about individual employees are also problematic.
BMT says on its website and in documents submitted to the port that its chief financial officer, David Johnson, was an FBI agent, a “military marshal” and holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in criminal justice, a major the university does not offer. An FBI spokeswoman could not say if Johnson worked at the bureau because the name is so common.
Johnson is also described in BMT’s port proposal as on the board of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Foundation in Florida. “I’ve never heard of him,” the foundation’s director, Stephen Moss, said last week. A trade group, the American Society for Industrial Security, also has no record of either Johnson or BMT, despite the firm’s claims of membership.
A copy of Johnson’s resume submitted in 2011 to Alameda County doesn’t mention the FBI or Harvard — it says he has a finance degree from Golden Gate University and worked for a San Diego bank.
Another company executive, Barbara Goodman, is described as the former president and a current board member of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association. But the current director, Cathy Craig-Myers, e-mailed Saturday that she “looked back as far as 1993, which is the year the association was formed. No Barbara Goodman.”
Johnson was also purported to be the project supervisor of security teams that served as “campus guards” at La Escuelita and Montclair elementary schools in Oakland. The company said it assigned 20 guards to La Escuelita, all of them with “extensive training in juvenile relations” and who were required to speak fluent “Spanish, Portuguese and Andalusian Spanish,” a dialect spoken in Gibraltar.
But Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint said Monday that the district has never employed BMT directly, as BMT claimed. However, the firm did work as a subcontractor for a construction company hired by the district and guarded construction sites at those schools, he said.
Other government agencies listed in BMT’s proposal also said they never hired the company.
“We have no record of them,” said Brad Weaver of the Riverside Transit Authority in Southern California.
Searches of BART records for any BMT contracts “all came up empty,” said spokesman Jim Allison.
“We have nothing on them at all,” said Alan Coon, a lawyer for the Housing Authority of San Joaquin County.
The city of San Ramon also had no record of BMT.
BMT also said it provided security for unnamed “transit agencies” in Mexico City. It claimed, too, that it had several certifications from the U.S. Department of Transportation, including one that allows it to use armored vehicles. The agency does not certify armored vehicles or security companies, spokesman Ryan Daniels said.
Some of BMT’s stated work experience in its port submission was true, including the Los Angeles housing contract. BMT has also guarded Bay Area construction sites, chain stores, an Oakland senior home and a Marin City community center, according to employers who hired and recommended them.
At least two port commissioners were skeptical of BMT’s bid initially, primarily for financial reasons. Michael Colbruno was the lone dissenting vote when the commission approved giving BMT the contract in November, and said last week he was worried the numbers “didn’t add up.”
He and Commissioner Victor Uno later proposed rescinding the contract, arguing the firm’s bid was so low it would be impossible for BMT to pay its workers the port’s living wage while also covering overhead and making a profit. Parker, acting as her own attorney, then sued the port and the port commission, alleging discrimination.
Then, on Dec. 19, BMT lined the port board meeting with politically connected supporters, including construction company executive Len Turner, San Francisco trucking contractor Charlie Walker and Nedir Bey.
The doubtful commissioners dropped their objections and Parker later dropped her suit. Now, however, port attorneys are taking a closer look.
“To the port’s credit, they are doing their due diligence,” Colbruno said.