Prosecutors seek to hold 2 charged with impersonating federal agents without bail

Federal prosecutors are looking to hold the two men accused of impersonating federal agents in D.C. without bail, saying one of them had ties to Pakistani intelligence and visas from Pakistan and Iran.

Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 35, appeared in federal court via telephone on Thursday. They were arrested Wednesday evening and charged with falsely pretending to be an officer of the United States.

Prosecutors want them both held without bail.

Judge G. Michael Harvey set a detention hearing for the two for Friday afternoon. He’ll set a date for a preliminary hearing then as well. That hearing has to happen within 14 days if they’re detained, 21 if not, the judge said.

The two men are charged with falsely claiming to be special agents of the Department of Homeland Security Investigations. Charging documents said the two had also provided gifts to Secret Service agents, including the use of rent-free penthouse apartments and more, “in order to ingratiate themselves” with law enforcement, a prosecutor said during Taherzadeh’s arraignment Thursday.

The two men were represented by public defenders Thursday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein said Ali had told witnesses that he was affiliated with the Inter-Services Intelligence agency in Pakistan and that he had multiple visas from Pakistan and Iran in the months before prosecutors believe the men began impersonating U.S. law enforcement officials.

Prosecutors believe the men were trying to “ingratiate themselves” and “integrate” with U.S. federal agents and people who worked in the U.S. defense community, Rothstein said.

The FBI searched five residences at the building on Wednesday and three vehicles. They found body armor, gas masks, zip ties, handcuffs, equipment to break through doors, drones, radios and police training manuals, Rothstein said.

The FBI also found several firearms — including handguns and ammunition — and disassembled rifle pieces and sniper scopes, Rothstein said.

The two men also had surveillance equipment and a high-power telescope, he said. The FBI found evidence that they may have been creating surveillance devices and 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.

Wednesday’s arrest came at the end of a process that began when someone allegedly assaulted a letter carrier in the apartment building in the Navy Yard neighborhood March 14. When an inspector from the U.S. Postal Inspectors Service began investigating, several people told them that Taherzadeh and Ali may have seen the incident, since they supposedly had video surveillance cameras set up throughout the building.

Residents also said the two controlled several apartments in the complex, and said the Department of Homeland Security paid for them all.

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

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 HIS task force he was part of had “approved extra rooms as part of his operations.”

The witness told investigators 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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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