Prosecutors Seek Detention For DC Duo Who Allegedly Posed As Federal Officers, Citing Foreign Travel

TPM Illustration/DOJ

Prosecutors are considering leveling additional charges at two men who they accuse of impersonating Department of Homeland Security agents, an assistant U.S. attorney said on Thursday.

Haider Ali, 35, and Arian Taherzadeh, 40, were arrested on Wednesday in a dramatic FBI raid of a D.C. Navy Yard luxury apartment complex on charges of impersonating federal officers.

At a Thursday court hearing, D.C. federal prosecutor Josh Rothstein told U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey for the District of Columbia that the two needed to be kept behind bars pending trial, saying that FBI agents had discovered a weapons cache during the search.

The hearings, held sequentially for Taherzadeh and then for Ali, were delayed and interrupted as the public defender assigned to the case spoke with her clients for what appeared to be the first time. Prosecutors shifted slightly in the details between the two hearings, telling the judge that the government was still in the process of understanding what it had uncovered.

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Neither Ali nor Taherzadeh entered pleas at the hearing. A public defender argued that both of them should be freed pending trial. Judge Harvey scheduled a detention hearing in the case for 3:30 p.m. on Friday.

Prosecutors filed the initial charges against the pair on Wednesday, one day after Secret Service agents who were the pair’s alleged targets were suspended. According to an FBI affidavit, the alleged scheme was purportedly uncovered after a March 15 assault on a postal worker at the building, which led postal inspectors to conduct initial interviews with the two defendants.

The Wednesday search, Rothstein said, uncovered “ballistic vests, body armor, gas masks, tactical law enforcement breaching equipment, zip ties, handcuffs, firearms storage cases for large and small arms,” as well as body cameras and a “drone consistent with what’s used by SWAT teams.”

The feds, Rothstein said, also found small arms, ammunition, and attachments for a long gun and “sniper spotting equipment.”

Taherzadeh and Ali were accused in an FBI affidavit on Wednesday of trying to “ingratiate” themselves with a number of Secret Service agents who lived in the Navy Yard complex, giving agents gifts while themselves posing as members of the Department of Homeland Security.

“We haven’t verified the veracity of these claims, but [Ali] made claims to witnesses that he had connections to the the ISI,” Rothstein said, referring to Pakistan’s intelligence service.

Rothstein also claimed that Ali’s passport showed visas and border stamps for Pakistan and Iran in 2019 and early 2020, before the pair rented the apartments in February 2020.

The two moved into the building just as it was first opening up for rentals. Rothstein said that, having rented five units in the complex, the two set about trying to “infiltrate” law enforcement and defense networks, speaking with neighbors who worked for the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security.

During the Wednesday search of the duo’s apartments, agents purportedly found a “binder with a list of every resident in their apartment complex,” which included law enforcement members. The pair also had documents labeled “law enforcement sensitive,” Rothstein said.

The prosecutor said that additional charges may include possession of a firearm and conspiracy for both of the defendants and, for Taherzadeh, destruction of evidence.

After being detained on Wednesday, Rothstein said, Taherzadeh told arresting officers that he had “deleted materials from a Facebook page associated with law enforcement activity” after learning of the probe. During the hearing, both Taherzadeh and Ali tried to interrupt and correct Rothstein, with the judge telling them each that “it doesn’t help you to say anything.”

In one example, Rothstein said that Taherzadeh’s passport showed a “foreign trip to the Middle East in the last three years.”

“I haven’t been to the Middle East at all,” the defendant replied.

Half an hour later, during the hearing for Ali, Rothstein clarified.

“I was looking at the travel report, and that’s what showed the trip to London,” he said.

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