Saturday, April 1

Two men posed as US agents, gave gifts to Secret Service officers

US prosecutors say the men offered Secret Service agents rent-free apartments and iPhones, among other expensive gifts.

The United States Secret Service has said that it placed some of its personnel on administrative leave for allegedly accepting gifts, including rent-free apartments, from two men now facing criminal charges for posing as Department of Homeland Security (DHS) special agents.

The Secret Service’s announcement on Thursday came a day after the US Department of Justice said it had arrested the two suspects, Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali, in Washington.

Officials said their actions were exposed when the suspects gave false statements about being members of law enforcement to a US postal inspector investigating the March assault of a letter carrier.

According to the criminal complaint, Taherzadeh and Ali had posed as special agents since at least February 2020 and offered a variety of gifts to Secret Service members and at least one Homeland Security employee.

The gifts included rent-free apartments valued at $40,000 per year, iPhones, surveillance systems, a drone, a flat-screen television, a case for storing an assault rifle, a generator and other law enforcement paraphernalia, the complaint said.

Court documents
Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali were taken into custody after more than a dozen FBI agents charged into their luxury apartment building in Washington, DC [Jon Elswick/AP]

The FBI also said that Taherzadeh offered to buy a $2,000 assault rifle for an agent assigned to protect First Lady Jill Biden and told other government officials they could have access to what he claimed were “official government vehicles”.

Prosecutors allege Taherzadeh and Ali had falsely claimed to work for (DHS) on a special task force investigating gangs and violence connected to the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. They allege the two posed as law enforcement officers to integrate with actual federal agents.

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The Department of Justice said the two men tried to recruit at least one person to join what they claimed was an official DHS “task force”.

“Taherzadeh and Ali required that the ‘applicant’ be shot with an Airsoft rifle to evaluate their pain tolerance and reaction,” an FBI agent wrote in a sworn statement. “Subsequent to being shot, the applicant was informed that their hiring was in process. The applicant was also assigned to conduct research on an individual that provided support to the Department of Defense and intelligence community.”

Taherzadeh, 40, and Ali, 36, were taken into custody as more than a dozen FBI agents charged into a luxury apartment building in southeast Washington on Wednesday evening.

Police searching car
Authorities did not detail what the men were aiming to accomplish by posing as law enforcement officers or by providing the gifts [Leah Millis/Reuters]

The postal inspector discovered that others who lived in the same apartment complex believed that Taherzadeh and Ali had set up surveillance in the building, officials said. Residents said they believed the two were capable of accessing their private mobile phones and had access to their personal information, officials added.

As of Monday, four members of the Secret Service were placed on administrative leave pending further investigation. “All personnel involved in this matter are on administrative leave and are restricted from accessing Secret Service facilities, equipment and systems,” the agency said.

Meanwhile, the two suspects are expected to make an initial appearance in federal court in Washington later on Thursday.

Authorities did not detail what, if anything, the men were aiming to accomplish by posing as law enforcement officers or by providing the gifts. Prosecutors said the investigation is continuing.

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