WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Two men accused of posing as federal agents and giving valuable gifts, including free apartments, to U.S. Secret Service agents have been arrested and charged with falsely impersonating a federal officer.
Prosecutors say Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 35, falsely claimed to work for the Department of Homeland Security and provided gifts in order to get close to multiple real Secret Service agents, including at least one agent who is assigned to protect first lady Jill Biden.
According to the FBI, the duo have been impersonating federal agents since February 2020 and gave valuable gifts to at least four Secret Service officers and agents.
Specifically, Taherzadeh is accused of providing them with cellphones, drones, a flat-screen television and other surveillance equipment. He also allegedly provided rent-free apartments, including a penthouse worth $40,000 per year.
Intelligence experts told NewsNation they are shocked by the offerings.
“That is something so far beyond the pale that it’s actually something out of a spy novel. I’ve never even heard of a federal agent being offered something like that (penthouse apartment) before,” Jeff James, a retired Secret Service special agent with more than 25 years of experience, said Thursday on NewsNatoin’s “Rush Hour.”
James said the entire situation is extremely concerning.
“Worst-case scenario, you’re going to end up being an asset for a foreign government. The best-case scenario is that you’re extortable, so either way, it wasn’t going to end well,” he said. “Now, what their actual goal was — whether it was to get an invitation to a White House event, or whether it was to get close access to someone that the Secret Service protects to commit an assassination — either one is unacceptable.”
In one particularly disturbing case, Taherzadeh offered to buy a $2,000 assault rifle for the Secret Service agent assigned to protect the first lady, prosecutors say.
The two also had weapons and equipment with federal law enforcement insignia and even tried recruiting someone to join their nonexistent task force.
In one instance, a recruit was shot with an airsoft gun to demonstrate their pain tolerance, court documents allege.
On Wednesday, the FBI arrested Taherzadeh and Ali at their luxury apartment in Washington, D.C., which happened to be in the same building where some of the Secret Service personnel they’re accused of befriending live.
The scheme unraveled after a postal inspector came to the building for an unrelated investigation and met with the two fake agents who claimed to be part of the U.S. Special Police Investigation Unit. But no such unit exists and the inspector reported them to federal authorities.
Prosecutors say the men set up surveillance in the building and told residents their cellphones could be accessed at any time.
Four Secret Service employees were placed on leave earlier this week as part of the investigation, according to prosecutors.