WASHINGTON — The FBI on Wednesday arrested two men living in southeast Washington, DC, on charges that they falsely impersonated federal agents as a way to ingratiate themselves with the US law enforcement and defense community.
Court documents said that beginning as early as February 2020, Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 35, pretended to be federal agents and convinced real government officials that their employment was legitimate.
Some of those whom they allegedly deceived were Secret Service agents assigned to the White House, including one in first lady Jill Biden’s protective detail.
As a result, four Secret Service agents have been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation, the FBI said in a filing in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. The agent detailed to the first lady was among those placed on leave, senior law enforcement officials said.
NBC News was unable to identify lawyers for the two men. Both are detained pending their initial appearances Thursday in DC federal district court.
In a statement Thursday morning, the Secret Service said, “All personnel involved in this matter are on administrative leave and are restricted from accessing Secret Service facilities, equipment, and systems. The Secret Service adheres to the highest levels of professional standards and conduct and will remain in active coordination with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.”
Both men pretended to work as special agents in the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI alleges. The criminal complaint says the pair even obtained paraphernalia with insignia and firearms, including handguns and assault rifles, of the type used by federal law enforcement agencies.
According to the FBI, Taherzadeh owned several apartments in a DC-area building where numerous law enforcement agents live. The complaint said Taherzadeh provided members of the Secret Service and a DHS employee with rent-free apartments, worth a total yearly rent of more than $40,000 per apartment, as well as iPhones, surveillance systems, a drone, a flat-screen television, a generator, law enforcement paraphernalia and a case for storing an assault rifle. The documents also said Taherzadeh offered the agents the use of what they said were “official government vehicles” and proposed buying a $2,000 assault rifle for a Secret Service agent assigned to first lady Jill Biden’s protective detail.
As part of the alleged scheme, the men even recruited a person to be an “employee of DHS” and to “serve on their task force.” The complaint said they “required that the ‘applicant’ be shot with an Airsoft rifle to evaluate their pain tolerance and reaction. Subsequent to being shot, the applicant was informed that their hiring was in process.”
The two men were caught after a US Postal Service inspector showed up at the building to investigate an alleged assault involving a USPS employee, the FBI said. The inspector was informed that Taherzadeh and Ali witnessed the incident.
They allegedly told the inspector that they were investigators with the “US Special Police Investigation Unit,” which one of them said was part of DHS, according to the FBI. The complaint said Taherzadeh owned a company called “United Special Police,” which its website advertises as a private security and investigative agency, not current law enforcement. The men claimed to be involved in undercover gang-related investigations, as well as conducting investigations related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the complaint said.
The Postal Service inspector relayed his findings about the men to the DHS Office of Inspector General, which then referred the information to the FBI.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism