WASHINGTON (AP) — Two men accused of impersonating federal agents and offering gifts and free apartments to Secret Service officers have been indicted by a federal grand jury, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali were indicted in Washington on charges of false impersonation of a federal officer and possessing a large-capacity ammunition device.
The case was thrust into the public spotlight earlier this month when more than a dozen FBI agents raided a luxury apartment building in southwest Washington. Prosecutors said the two had tricked actual Secret Service officers and offered them expensive apartments and gifts in an effort to “ingratiate” themselves and integrate with law enforcement agents, including an agent assigned to protect the first lady.
During the search, authorities found body armor, gas masks, zip ties, handcuffs, equipment to break through doors, drones, radios and police training manuals in five apartments in the building. The two men had surveillance equipment and a high-power telescope, and the FBI found evidence that they may have been creating surveillance devices, prosecutors said. The FBI also found several firearms — including handguns and ammunition — and disassembled rifle pieces and sniper scopes, according to prosecutors.
The agents also found a binder with information on all the residents in the luxury apartment building, which is home to law enforcement officers, defense officials and congressional staffers, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors allege Taherzadeh and Ali had falsely claimed to work for the Department of Homeland Security and work on a special task force investigating gangs and violence connected to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Taherzadeh is accused of providing Secret Service officers and agents with rent-free apartments — including a penthouse worth over $40,000 a year — along with iPhones, surveillance systems, a drone, a television, a generator, a gun case and other policing tools, according to court documents. In one instance, Taherzadeh offered to purchase a $2,000 assault rifle for a Secret Service agent who is assigned to protect the first lady, prosecutors said.
The plot unraveled when the U.S. Postal Inspection Service began investigating an assault involving a mail carrier at the apartment building and the men identified themselves as being part of a phony Homeland Security unit they called the U.S. Special Police Investigation Unit.
Taherzadeh’s lawyer, Michelle Peterson, argued that he had no intention of compromising the agents and had provided the luxury apartments and lavish gifts because he wanted to be friends with them.
She said her client had previously been licensed in Washington as an unarmed special police officer – a private guard to protect people or property – and was also a licensed private detective. In an extensive interview with investigators after his arrest, Taherzadeh said he had made “an embarrassing misrepresentation that got out of control."
Ali’s lawyer, Greg Smith, has argued his client didn’t know Taherzadeh was lying about a connection to Homeland Security and genuinely believed he was working on behalf of the government.
Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press