Suspected police impersonators Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali have claimed a link to Pakistani intelligence
Taherzadeh, 40, and Ali, 35, were charged with what prosecutors described as a ruse that began in February 2020 and only ended after a postal inspector met the couple in an unrelated matter. Federal law enforcement officials haven’t said what motivated the men or what they wanted in return because prosecutors say they ‘got insinuated and infiltrated’ by Secret Service agents and personnel from DHS who lived in their building in DC. So far, the men are only charged with “false impersonation of a federal officer,” although Rothstein said Thursday the government would likely add a “conspiracy” charge.
“We have not verified the accuracy of his claims, but Mr. Ali told witnesses that he had ties to the ISI, which is Pakistan’s intelligence service,” Rothstein said.
The Pakistani embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
2 men accused of posing as federal officers to approach the secret service
Ali had three visas to travel to Pakistan and two to travel to Iran, Rothstein said. The Iranian visas were from July 2019 to January 2020, the month before he began driving, Rothstein alleged. The prosecutor said it appeared Ali had entered Iran once and his visas for Pakistan were older. The men are US citizens, the prosecutor said.
According to an affidavit from an FBI agent in the case, the men lavished gifts on Secret Service members – including free apartments that reportedly cost $40,000 a year, iPhones, surveillance systems, a drone , a flat screen TV and a generator – and it was not entirely clear what they wanted in return.
In court, Rothstein said Wednesday’s search of five units in the building – including those occupied by each defendant – resulted in the recovery of Glock and Sig Sauer pistols; DHS training patches, vests and manuals; binoculars; “sniper spotting equipment”; and a binder showing the names and addresses of the occupants of the building.
The Secret Service furloughed four employees connected to the case, though the bureau characterized them in court documents as witnesses who appeared to have been duped by a well-executed scheme. In a statement, a spokesperson said the agency was working with the Department of Justice on the investigation and added, “All personnel involved in this matter are on administrative leave and do not have access to facilities, secret service equipment and systems”.
Where the men got their money – and how much they actually had – was unclear. Taherzadeh, in particular, appears to have accumulated large unpaid debts. Court records show he was frequently sued and sued by collection agencies over the past two decades — in Missouri and the DC area — for unpaid rent and other bills, and his creditors often had struggling to track him down to make their claims.
The men’s latest residence – a luxury apartment complex known as The Crossing, a swanky building near the Navy Yard tube station with faux ivy behind reception and a rooftop infinity pool – appeared to be the central point of their plan. The men controlled several apartments – whose residents they said were paid by the Department of Homeland Security – and appeared to have unusual privileges, according to the affidavit. Taherzadeh told a Secret Service agent assigned to the first lady’s detail, for example, that he was the “go-to guy” if a resident needed anything, and showed the agent ” security footage of various areas of the apartment complex, indicating that he had gained access to the entire apartment complex’s security system,” according to the affidavit.
The FBI raided the building on Wednesday – alarming residents, although some were wary of their neighbors.
“It was just shocking,” said Paige Spraker, a 27-year-old Crossing resident who emerged with her corgi, Luna.
The Crossing provides rent reductions to federal employees, some residents said, which may help explain the highly educated and politically oriented makeup of its occupants.
A woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said he first saw Taherzadeh in December 2020. The pair first spoke at the apartment’s rooftop pool last summer, she said, when Taherzadeh told her he worked for ‘special police’ in a group working on drugs against gang violence “across the river”, which she said meant in Anacostia.
The woman also said she saw Taherzadeh often use his status as a “special police” officer to go to certain parts of the apartment complex when they were closed, such as the pool and hot tub.
The company that runs the building declined to comment, but in a message to residents, staff “fully cooperated with the investigation” on Wednesday.
A review of court records related to Taherzadeh appears to paint a picture of a man in debt hundreds of thousands of dollars and repeatedly finding himself on the run from his creditors. He previously lived in Missouri, where more than two decades ago he was involved in a car crash that killed a 17-year-old girl, court records show.
Attorney Thomas A. Mauro said he has been suing Taherzadeh for years in two lawsuits, filed in 2016 and 2021.
One client, Moses Kamai, was hired by an alleged security company with government contracts that Taherzadeh ran, then called AET Holdings, according to Mauro and one of the lawsuits. According to Mauro and the lawsuit he filed, Kamai was supposed to be paid $191,000 a year to build lines of potential customers.
In a brief interview with The Washington Post, Kamai said he worked for the company for three months from December 2015 and never received a salary, which his lawsuit valued at around $35,000. Before his departure. He sued in 2016 and won a $290,000 judgment against Taherzadeh and AET, which included back wages, unreimbursed expenses and interest.
“We chased him for years,” Mauro said, describing Taherzadeh as “going from one luxury building to another.”
In 2021, Mauro said he was representing a different client suing Taherzadeh: the owners of an apartment on K Street Southeast, around the corner from The Crossing.
Mauro said Taherzadeh and another man presented the rental agent with tax returns that showed they were making “tons of money”, which eventually convinced apartment managers to rent them out. penthouses – one at $6,221 per month, the other at $4,165 per month. At a trial, the men named a company, Bethesda-based AEH Solutions, as the beneficiary, claiming Taherzadeh was the president and earned $70,000 a month. They also claimed the other man was the vice president and was earning $62,000 a month, Mauro said.
But the checks the men gave bounced, according to the lawsuit, which seeks $63,000 from the pair, as well as $100,000 in punitive damages.
“They each knowingly abandoned the apartments despite knowing that their fraudulent scheme was running its course,” Mauro said in the lawsuit.
Ali, who was also arrested in the case, also had business troubles over the years, according to court documents and an interview with a man he met in Springfield, Va.
As recently as 2020, records show, he claimed to have run a limo business with an office at one of the district’s most prestigious addresses – at 17th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, a block from the House Blanche – although no evidence can be found that the company was still around. Over the years, he sued several people who he believed were clients or otherwise had business with him.
In 2017, for example, court records show Ali sued a Springfield, Va. limo driver named Masrur Anwar, who told the Post that Ali had repeatedly hired him to pick up customers at a airport. Anwar said he and Ali argued over money – but Ali was unaware of the lawsuit, which sought $150,000 but was dismissed before it was served on Ali.
In another case, Ali sued his own company, AET Holding, and an executive whom The Post could not locate. Ali alleged in court filings that he was not paid $150,000 and that the executive stiffed him on a $1million loan – although that case was also dismissed.
According to the FBI, the men’s ruse was not unconvincing. A witness, a uniformed Secret Service agent tasked with protecting the White House compound, said he saw Taherzadeh use a private identity verification card to gain access to a laptop computer labeled with a DHS symbol, and a notice of Federal confidentiality appeared when Taherzadeh went online. Another witness, the first lady’s retail agent, described how Taherzadeh showed a particular weapon, a type of Glock, just as their own agency began equipping people with it, according to court documents. .
But their behavior was also sometimes bizarre. According to the affidavit, the men convinced a person who wanted a job at DHS that as part of the “recruitment process” they should be shot with an Airsoft gun to assess their pain tolerance and reaction. The person agreed and Taherzadeh shot them, according to the affidavit.
Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.