WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors Friday called two D.C. men "practiced liars who perpetrated a long-term deception," compromising four Secret Service agents involved in protective details and with access to the White House.
In a 30-page memo urging a federal magistrate to continue to detain Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 36, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein detailed a small arsenal seized from five apartments at Crossing, a swanky Navy Yard apartment building where large numbers of federal agents live.
Rothstein argued the men, who are charged for now only with false impersonation of an officer of the United States, should continue to be detained as dangers to the community and flight risks.
In the memo, prosecutors include photos of Taherzadeh firing an assault rifle and a pistol while wearing a U.S. Secret Service insignia on his arm at what is believed to be a Northern Virginia firing range.
FBI agents seized Ali's Pakistani National Identity card, an expired passport with two entry and exit visas for Iran, and loaded Glock and Sig Sauer handguns.
The men allegedly "procured, stored, and used all the tools of law enforcement and covert tradecraft: weaponry, including firearms, scopes, and brass knuckles; surveillance equipment, including a drone, antennae, hard drives, and hard drive copying equipment; tools to manufacture identities, including a machine to create Personal Identification Verification (PIV) cards and passport photographs; and tactical gear, including vests, gas masks, breach equipment, police lights, and various law enforcement insignia."
Prosecutors say the pair lavished gifts on the four Secret Service agents, including rent-free apartments that ran $40,000 a year and up, in an effort to infiltrate the agency. Despite allegedly showering tens of thousands of dollars on the U.S. Secret Service members, the men now say they cannot afford lawyers and will be represented by federal public defenders.
One of the Secret Service members who reportedly received gifts was on Vice President Kamala Harris' protective detail, the two Secret Service uniformed officers were assigned to the White House, and the fourth agent, according to law enforcement sources, was on President Biden's protective detail.
At a hearing Thursday, lawyer Michelle Peterson argued the evidence did not meet the level that would allow them to continue to be detained.
"The Defendants were not merely playing dress-up; they had firearms, they had ammunition, they had body armor, they had tactical gear, they had surveillance equipment, and they were engaged in conduct that represented a serious threat to the community, compromised the operations of a federal law enforcement agency, and created a potential risk to national security," the memo says.
Taherzadeh has a history of domestic violence and is banned from possessing a gun or even a single round of ammunition.
Prosecutors say Taherzadeh was arrested in Arlington on July 6, 2013, on one count of Strangulation Resulting in Wounding and Assault and Battery on a Family Member. He was convicted of assault. He was also charged with Assault and Battery on a Family Member in 2013 in Fairfax County, in this case, according to the memo, it was "Taherzadeh's girlfriend, not his wife."
Prosecutor Rothstein wrote in the memo that Taherzadeh is talked voluntarily with FBI agents: "During the course of this interview, Taherzadeh admitted, among other things, that: (1) he had falsely identified himself as a member of the Department of Homeland Security; (2) he had falsely identified himself as a former United States Army Ranger; (3) the Sig Sauer 229 firearm belonged to him and was in his possession; (4) the Glock 19 firearm belonged to Ali, but Taherzadeh had possessed it as well; (5) he offered to provide a USSS agent with an assault rifle; (6) he provided free apartments to two USSS agents for approximately one year; (7) he had provided a “doomsday bag,” generator, flat screen television, two iPhones, a drone, a gun locker, a Pelican case, and a mattress to agents and officers of the USSS; (8) he did in fact shoot someone, identified in the complaint as Witness 1, with an Airsoft gun."
What's not in the memo is why the men were allegedly trying to infiltrate the Secret Service. Retired FBI Special Agent Tom O'Conner says the amount of money involved is important.
"That makes these persons much, much more a target for being part of a foreign intelligence organization, and not just a couple of yahoos that are trying to become friends with law enforcement."
A detention hearing held Friday for Taherzadeh and Ali will be continued Monday at 3:30 p.m.
Under tough questioning from the judge, the prosecutor was forced to admit the men may never have actually paid rent for the apartments and were in the process of getting evicted.
"If there was no need of a foreign government to provide funds and they just bounced checks and put things on credit, this doesn't amount to much," the judge said.
The two men will be held in custody until the hearing continues Monday.