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New details have emerged in the case of two men who allegedly impersonated Homeland Security officers, duping their D.C. neighbors — including a Secret Service agent who was assigned to protect first lady Jill Biden.
The men, Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 35, were arrested earlier this week. Their motivations remain unclear; prosecutors arguing for their pretrial detention suggested the possibility that they had ties to foreign governments.
Neither man is employed by the United States government in any capacity, court documents say. One, Taherzadeh, is barred from possessing firearms due to a prior domestic violence conviction; he pleaded guilty to attempting to strangle his wife nearly a decade ago.
Yet the pair were seemingly known as Homeland Security officers to neighbors in their Washington, D.C., apartment building, where they rented multiple units and where many residents are affiliated with federal law enforcement and the military.
Court documents filed earlier in the week say that Taherzadeh was “very outspoken about his job” as a supposed Homeland Security officer, despite his claim to be part of a covert task force.
The men allegedly recruited one individual to “serve on their task force,” telling the man he would need to be shot with an Airsoft rifle so that Taherzadeh could evaluate his reaction and pain tolerance. The man told law enforcement Ali was also present while he allowed himself to be shot.
One neighbor, a Secret Service agent assigned to protect the first lady, said Taherzadeh had “made it clear that he is the ‘go-to guy’ if a resident needed anything in the building.” Taherzadeh bought that agent a $2,000 assault rifle, according to prosecutors.
He and Ali are accused of lavishing gifts on their neighbors, allegedly providing two Secret Service agents with free apartments for around one year, allowing the wife of a Secret Service agent to use what was supposedly an official government vehicle, and giving out iPhones and other electronics.
The Secret Service placed four agents on administrative leave Monday.
Authorities found that Taherzadeh and Ali had a Sig Sauer 229 and a Glock 19 ― firearms normally issued by federal law enforcement ― along with several firearm safes and firearm components. They discovered surveillance equipment, 30 hard drives and a machine to create and program personal identification verification cards, along with some blank cards with embedded chips.
The two men were “not merely playing dress-up,” prosecutors said in court documents filed Friday.
Also in Taherzadeh’s possession was “a rifle scope, tactical gear and storage equipment, clothing and patches with police insignias, handheld radios, a high-end drone, a gas mask, handcuffs, zip ties, breaching equipment, a cleaning kit for firearms, an ultraviolet flashlight, an RF-GS k18 which is used to locate hidden cameras, microphones and RF transmitters (e.g. vehicle trackers), computer server with two modules, an encrypted portable hard drive, antennas, and a firearms holster mounted and hidden under a desk.”
Taherzadeh told law enforcement that Ali funded most of their operations, but that he did not know where the money came from, court documents say. Taherzadeh’s private security company, called “U.S. Special Police LLC,” allegedly used business cards allegedly formatted “very similarly” to Secret Service business cards.
According to prosecutors, an expired passport Ali still had in his possession indicated he’d visited Iran, Pakistan and Egypt, and he allegedly claimed he had ties to Pakistan’s intelligence service ― something that has not been corroborated.
Taherzadeh and Ali’s alleged activities only came to light because of an apparently unrelated assault on a United States Postal Service worker in their apartment building. Some of their neighbors told investigators that the two worked for Homeland Security, sparking an investigation that the FBI eventually took over.