Four Secret Service officials were suspended after they wereaccused of posing as government officials and employees.
Investigators allege that Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 35, both charged with falsely identifying a federal officer, obtained paraphernalia, handguns and assault rifles used by federal law enforcement. Then, according to the FBI, they allegedly used their feigned ties to the US government to flatter US Secret Service officials with gifts and favors.
Two of the four suspended Secret Service officers are agents and two are uniformed division officers. An FBI affidavit released Wednesday listed three of them as witnesses who were extensively questioned by the FBI.
One of the agents was with the Secret Service for First Lady Jill Biden. Another is a uniformed departmental officer at the White House. The third is deployed as a uniformed division officer at Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence at the US Naval Observatory. And a fourth has been assigned to the President’s Protection Detail — meaning this officer is one of the federal agents tasked with protecting the safety of the sitting president, first family and vice president.
However, the fourth officer is not part of the ongoing USSS investigation as this individual has no information relevant to the investigation but allegedly interacted with the suspects.
Prosecutors late Friday ordered Judge G. Michael Harvey to hold the couple pending trial, claiming evidence from the five homes searched earlier this week showed the two posed a “serious threat,” that Ali was a flight risk and Zaherzadeh could attempt to destroy evidence.
“The defendants not only disguised themselves,” prosecutor Joshua Rothstein said, “created a potential national security risk.” The men “tricked people whose job it is to be suspicious of others,” he claimed, who were ultimately “shocked” that the two weren’t the federal agents they said they were.
However, Rothstein also revealed in court that the government believes Taherzadeh was at some unspecified time a special constable for the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC, an allegation that piqued the judge’s interest.
Court documents filed in preparation for Friday’s arrest hearing detail the evidence investigators found during their search: a loaded handgun, tactical gear, a sledgehammer, ammunition, handcuffs, a drone and even police lights.
Investigators also produced numerous passports and visas, which they say belonged to Ali, to the court, showing two visas authorizing travel from the Islamic Republic of Iran. There was also evidence of numerous trips abroad.
During an interview after his arrest and on the government warrant, Taherzadeh reportedly told law enforcement that he had falsely identified himself as a member of the Department of Homeland Security and a former US Army ranger. He also admitted that he offered to outfit a USSS agent with an assault rifle and provided two USSS agents with free housing for about a year.
“Regarding Ali, Taherzadeh explained that Ali had received the electronic access codes and a list of all tenants in the apartment complex. Taherzadeh further stated that Ali was the person who funded most of their day-to-day operations, except Taherzadeh did not know the origin of the funds,” the court filings said.
Harvey expressed skepticism about the government’s evidence during Friday’s hearing because prosecutors lacked the evidence to answer many of his questions. He asked prosecutors for answers by Monday about Taherzadeh’s past work and businesses, sources of funding and specific information about Ali’s trip.
“I want to know what you know … and what that means,” the judge demanded.
The service is also gathering more information about how the social circles of the two suspects were intertwined with those of Secret Service employees. The agency’s security department launched an internal investigation Monday to determine how both suspects wormed their way into the lives of law enforcement officers, known sources told CBS News. Investigators are also looking into whether there were any security breaches when the suspects interacted with officers. At this point, US law enforcement officials say internal audit has collected no evidence that sensitive information was leaked to the suspects, but emphasize the investigation is at a “very early” stage.
The review will ultimately determine whether the agency will take further punitive action against the defrauded officers, including whether they are allowed to keep their security clearance.
Lavish gifts given by the suspects to USSS employees — including iPhones, televisions, apartments and an assault rifle — were not given as bribes but were presented to USSS officials as “gifts,” according to sources familiar with the audit. When handed over to Secret Service staff, the suspects claimed the equipment was surplus from previous federal cases. For example, a USSS officer who accepted an apartment told investigators he had been misled into thinking it was “leftover” from a completed federal surveillance operation.
However, federal agents routinely receive training aimed at raising their awareness of such plans, raising questions about how trained law enforcement personnel have been duped.
Law enforcement sources told CBS News that FBI investigators leading the US government’s criminal investigation into the suspects are investigatingincluding the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite component of Iran’s military conducting special operations, or the Quds Force.
Taherzadeh and Ali each face a maximum of three years in prison if convicted, but prosecutors said in court Thursday they could also charge the couple as part of a conspiracy. They will remain in jail at least until Monday, when the incarceration hearing is scheduled to continue.