Fake DHS Agent Admits To Impersonating Feds

Arian Taherzadeh also pleaded guilty to firearms and voyeurism charges.
TPM Illustration/DOJ

When FBI agents stormed the luxury D.C. Navy Yard apartments of two men impersonating federal law enforcement in April, what they found was stunning: weapons, fake law enforcement badges, and extensive surveillance equipment, including video cameras.

It set off a wave of speculation that the pair — Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali — were involved in some kind of intelligence operation, or a nefarious plot.

But it now appears, according to documents from a plea agreement into which Taherzadeh entered on Monday, that the scheme may have had its sights on less ambitious targets.

Taherzadeh told staff at the buildings he rented that he was a federal agent, thereby gaining access to the property’s video surveillance system.

“In one instance, TAHERZADEH had Recruit 1 contact a car owner that was in TAHERZADEH’s desired spot,” the statement of offense reads. “During that call, Recruit 1 told the car owner that the car needed to be moved because it was in the spot of a federal law enforcement officer.”

Taherzadeh pleaded guilty to one federal conspiracy charge, and to two D.C. charges of unlawful possession of a high capacity ammunition device and of voyeurism.

That last charge also comes from the video surveillance: Taherzadeh admitted to installing cameras inside his apartment, where he recorded “women engaged in sexual activity” before showing the videos to others.

Taherzadeh was charged in April along with one other defendant, Ali. Ali has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors alleged on Monday that there was a previously unknown, unindicted co-conspirator also involved in the scheme, referred to only as “subject one.”

Taherzadeh admitted to impersonating an alphabet soup of agencies, including DHS (Homeland Security), DOJ (Justice), OPM (Personnel Management), and others.

That, plea documents say, allowed Taherzadeh and others to inflict more than $800,000 in losses on D.C. landlords who were never paid for rent, parking fees, and amenities.

TPM first reported that a lawsuit accused the pair of failing to pay any rent at all on the ritzy D.C. Navy Yard apartment out of which they ran the scheme. TPM subsequently reported that Taherzadeh left behind a string of lawsuits alleging the same, filed by jilted business partners and unpaid vendors.

Former associates of Taherzadeh’s told TPM that before national security, he tried to get into tech, running a web hosting company and using the proceeds to finance a lifestyle of red bull, vodka, clubbing, and high-end car rentals.

Taherzadeh admitted on Monday to conduct that began in September 2018 when he introduced himself to an unnamed “recruit” as an agent with DHS’s Homeland Security Investigations unit.

From there, Taherzadeh created a firm called United States Special Police (USSP), which held itself out as a private investigations and security firm.

Prosecutors said that it was Ali who funded USSP, while the two would allegedly tell federal agents that the firm was a front for federal law enforcement.

The scheme often descended into the absurd, according to the statement of offense, with Ali allegedly driving around in a car with fake police lights on top, and Taherzadeh claiming that USSP was undercover in order to avoid FOIA.

Taherzadeh admitted to providing more than $90,000 in gifts to Secret Service agents.

That included giving an agent on First Lady Jill Biden’s security detail and that agent’s wife “a generator, a doomsday/survival backpack,” and an offer to purchase a $2,000 AR-15.

Prosecutors are silent on where the money came from to fund all of this, but point repeatedly to the frauds that Taherzadeh admitted to in his plea agreement.

At one point, when a landlord employee contacted Taherzadeh about unpaid rent, he replied from an account named for a fake person, Kevin Fuller.

“I’ve only been part of this unit for 3 1/2 months and I have had a lot of catch up to do and
a lot of information to digest,” the message reads, before adding that “our agency is a recognized law enforcement and intelligence agency” and that “the majority of our support staff and administrative personnel either have to work from home (where they have limited access to files and relevant info) or are simply on leave until this situation passes.”

Per the plea agreement, Taherzadeh agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation.

Read the statement of offense here:

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

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