Prosecutors and defense attorneys painted two very different pictures of the men accused of duping Secret Service agents with lavish gifts and free apartments.
WASHINGTON — Court filings and a continued hearing over their detention before trial revealed more about the two men accused of impersonating federal law enforcement officers and the case against them.
Alleged prosecutors for the past two years Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 35, were falsely claiming to be federal agents and even tricked members of the president and vice president’s secret service teams by showering them with gifts and fancy rent-free apartments.
Last week, the FBI raided the penthouse and four other units at a posh apartment complex in the Navy Yard neighborhood of southeast DC that they say were part of the scam the two men were running.
Prosecutors say FBI agents found police paraphernalia Taherzadeh and Ali shouldn’t have had, ID making equipment, fake law enforcement business cards, computers, cameras, equipment for breaking down doors, and guns – which prosecutors say Taherzadeh is prohibited from having because of a domestic assault in Virginia.
Prosecutors also say Ali tried to claim an affiliation with a Pakistani intelligence service and made several trips to the Middle East prior to the pandemic, including trips to Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Egypt.
“Each hour since their arrest, the Government learns more—and scarier—information about how Taherzadeh and Ali abused their fake authority,” prosecutors said in court filings.
Defense attorneys called that claiming a “doozy” and said in court prosecutors “have jumped to the wildest conspiracy theories possible over the most scant of evidence.”
They say their clients never intended to compromise any federal agents. Instead, they started lies that got out of control.
Taherzadeh’s attorney said the fact that he waived his right to an attorney and willingly sat for a 5 1/2 hour interview with investigators showed he is “not a threat.”
In a court filing Chief Assistant Federal Public Defender Michelle Peterson wrote:
“Mr. Taherzadeh is not a danger to the community. As he advised law enforcement in his lengthy interview, he had no intention of compromising any federal agent. He acknowledged gifts to agents with whom he had a genuine friendship. He acted out of a Desire for friendship, not to influence anyone. He never asked for anything from the officers he befriended, never gave them anything for the purpose of gaining something in response, and deeply regrets his involvement in this matter.”
Defense attorneys also noted the pair never paid for their Navy Yard apartments and had racked up more than $200,000 in back rent and were in the process of eviction.
In letters to the court, Ali’s family said he had traveled to the Middle East to visit religious sites. Ali’s brother wrote:
“Ali underwent a spiritual evolution where he first adopted Sufism and later started following the Shia sect in Islam. Ali has traveled to different countries as part of that transformation. It is my understanding that these travels several years ago to Iran, Iraq and Egypt involved visits to various religious shrines as confirmed by the various gifts to the family after coming back to U, S. Despite his change in doctrine, however, he has shown no signs of being radicalized and has continued to remain close to the family, all of whom are Sunn.”
Taherzadeh’s father called into the teleconference hearing on behalf of his son and said, with his voice cracking, “If you will release him into my custody I will quite my job. I will stay home.”
US Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey will hear more arguments on Tuesday about whether the two men should be released until the trial. Harvey said he will have an answer by the afternoon Tuesday. Whatever the decision, Harvey said he will not allow the men to return to the Navy Yard apartment complex before trial.
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