‘A complicated case’: Hearing to continue for 2 charged with impersonating federal agents

The detention hearing for the two men who have been charged with impersonating federal law enforcement officers, and are accused of giving gifts including free apartments to Secret Service agents, finished without a resolution on Friday.

The proceedings will continue on Monday, when Judge G. Michael Harvey will — presumably — decide whether Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 35, will be held in jail until their trial.

The two were arrested Wednesday evening and charged with falsely pretending to be an officer of the United States. Since February 2020, they allegedly told residents they worked for the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations unit, and also that they worked on a gang task force.

Prosecutors argued in court Friday that the two could not be released on bail because Ali had recently traveled, especially to Pakistan and Iran, and had told a neighbor that he had connections with Pakistani intelligence; because Taherzadeh had erased some social media posts and turned off the GPS on his phone when he found out law enforcement was closing in on the two; and because of the many guns found in the apartments they controlled.

“The Defendants were not merely playing dress-up,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein argued; “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.”

They also said that Taherzadeh possessed guns and ammunition despite being banned from doing so by virtue of a domestic assault conviction.

In addition to the apartments, the pair are accused of giving officers rifles, drones, mattresses, flat-screen TVs and more.

The defendants and their public defenders spoke very little during the remote hearing. Mostly, Rothstein presented evidence, which Harvey probed.

Taherzadeh was with U.S. Special Police, a private corporation, and was at one point a special police office with the D.C. police, Rothstein said during the hearing. It’s not known yet exactly when that was.

“I don’t know that we know the ultimate purpose” of the alleged scheme, Rothstein said, or whether the two ever asked any Secret Service officers for anything in exchange for the apartments or items.

Still, even if there weren’t any specific requests, “the scale of the compromise situation they created is quite large,” Rothstein said.

It’s not known how much money actually changed hands in the alleged scheme, including whether anyone actually paid the rent on the apartments. “We are still trying to run that to ground,” Rothstein said.

“They tricked people whose job it is to be suspicious of others,” Rothstein said of the two defendants. “Those people, in fact, believed that they were members of federal law enforcement.”

“This is a complicated case,” the judge said. “Never seen one quite like it.”

Began last month

The pair was arrested Wednesday at the end of an investigation that began March 14, when someone allegedly assaulted a letter carrier in the apartment building where the two lived in the Navy Yard neighborhood.

When an inspector from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service began investigating, several people told them that Taherzadeh and Ali may have seen the incident, since they supposedly had access to video surveillance cameras throughout the building, a binder with the names of everyone in the building and access codes to each apartment.

Court documents allege the two controlled five apartments in the complex and told residents the Department of Homeland Security paid for them all. FBI agents spent Wednesday night taking boxes out of the apartments; in a court document filed Friday, prosecutors allege that investigators found many guns, tactical gear, equipment for manufacturing identities, immigration documents for a number of people who may or may not exist, and more.

One of the witnesses, a Secret Service member assigned to protect the White House complex, said Taherzadeh provided them with a rent-free penthouse apartment from February 2021 to January of this year. He also paid the rent of another federal law enforcement officer in the complex, according to the complaint; that officer said Taherzadeh told them the HSI task force he was part of had “approved extra rooms as part of his operations.”

Four members of the Secret Service have been put on leave.

The witness told investigators that Taherzadeh told her he was in a gang unit with the Department of Homeland Security. He gave her an email address that looked something like a DHS email address, but wasn’t.

Another witness told investigators Taherzadeh had codes to the elevators that allowed him to get to every floor of the building, and showed her “surveillance footage from around the complex.”

A Secret Service agent who is part of first lady Jill Biden’s detail told prosecutors that Taherzadeh repeatedly claimed to be with Homeland Security Investigations, said he was “the ‘go-to guy’ if a resident needs anything in the building,” lent the agent vehicles and showed them security footage from the apartment complex.

Another witness, who was not a federal law enforcement official, told prosecutors that Taherzadeh recruited them to join DHS, saying he had the power to hire them. As part of the “recruiting process,” the witness agreed to be shot with an air rifle.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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