Men who posed as federal agents are national security risk: Federal prosecutors

(WASHINGTON) — The two men accused of impersonating federal law enforcement agents are a risk to national security, government prosecutors said in a court document, pushing to keep the men in custody Friday.

“In compromising at least four members of the USSS, they caused a risk to national security and the functioning of an essential government agency protecting the nation’s leadership,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Rothstein wrote in the document. “Because of the nature and circumstances of the Defendants’ conduct, this factor points in favor of detention.”

The judge did not make a ruling on their detention Friday. The parties will be back in court Monday.

Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali stand accused of impersonating federal law enforcement agents as well as giving lavish gifts to U.S. Secret Service agents and their families. The pair was arrested on Wednesday.

“They are not law enforcement agents, and they are not involved in sanctioned covert activities,” prosecutors wrote in the detention memo. “Neither Defendant is even employed by the United States government. But their impersonation scheme was sufficiently realistic to convince other government employees, including law enforcement agents, of their false identities.”

The federal government also alleges that after Taherzadeh was arrested, he was interviewed and admitted to posing as a law enforcement officer and providing free rent to U.S. Secret Service agents. He also allegedly provided a “doomsday bag,” generator, flat-screen television, two iPhones, a drone, a gun locker, a Pelican gun case and a mattress to agents and officers of the Secret Service.

Lawyers for the government were grilled by Judge Michael Harvey on the source of the funding of the men, saying they could have put all of the charges on credit, and asking whether any gifts were exchanged between U.S. Secret Service agents and the two men.

“Who is funding the scheme? If it is Mr. Ali buying that day’s lunch at Chick-fil-A, it’s far less important,” Harvey said.

Both of those answers, the government acknowledged, they do not know.

“The scale of the comprised situation that they created is quite large and it’s causing us to have to send agents out to interview many, many people. These aren’t people just dressing up for Halloween. This is very serious,” Rothstein said.

In an interview with agents, Taherzadeh said his co-conspirator Ali “funded most of their day to day operation,” but he did not know the source of the money.

The assistant U.S. attorney said Ali has “some sort of citizenship status in Pakistan,” citing an ID card from the country. The government said they will do more digging over the weekend. Ali, Rothstein said, was born in Pakistan. The identification card is “relevantly new”

Rothstein also revealed the men had immigration documents of certain people who are in the building and the government is trying to figure out if those documents are real.

The government also revealed Taherzadeh was a special police officer, which, according to Rothstein, is a contracted company that stands in building lobbies, and the suspect was working in this capacity at “some time.”

“I don’t want to spend time with additional amorphous representation,” Harvey told the prosecutors, asking for more details for the entirety of the case.

Charging documents unsealed Wednesday show the men attempted to gift members of the Secret Service not only rent worth up to $40,000 but also weapons, including offering to purchase a $2,000 assault rifle for a member of first lady Jill Biden’s detail.

Prosecutors said in the court filing they “compromised” U.S. Secret Service “personnel involved in protective details and with access to the White House complex by lavishing gifts upon them, including rent-free living.”

The government added, “They procured, stored, and used all the tools of law enforcement and covert tradecraft: weaponry, including firearms, scopes, and brass knuckles; surveillance equipment, including a drone, antennae, hard drives, and hard drive copying equipment; tools to manufacture identities, including a machine to create Personal Identification Verification (PIV) cards and passport photographs; and tactical gear, including vests, gas masks, breach equipment, police lights, and various law enforcement insignia.”

An assistant U.S. Attorney representing the government said at a previous court hearing on Thursday that Ali has “claimed to witnesses to have connections to the ISI, which is the Pakistani Intelligence Service,” and the government found three Pakistani visas as well as two Iranian visas “from July 31 2018 through December 28 2019 and December 28 2019 through January 25 2020. And we know that because the conduct in the complaint starts in February 2020.”

Prosecutors have also alleged the men kept binders full of residents who lived in the luxury Washington, D.C., Navy Yard building. Several residents who spoke to ABC News were disturbed by the details outlined in the government’s allegations, including that the accused had a list of residents in the complex.

“It was pretty crazy, I just got home from work and I just saw a bunch of FBI agents in the lobby,” building resident Thomas Lee told ABC News. “It’s scary. It’s my place of living. … I just came home and then there’s just FBI agents. I’m like … what’s going on?”

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