WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Last week, news of two men accused of impersonating federal agents and duping members of the Secret Service made headlines in the nation’s capital.
Federal prosecutors initially reported that Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 36, gave Secret Service agents, including a member of first lady Jill Biden’s protective detail, tens of thousands of dollars in lavish gifts, including rent-free apartments. Prosecutors also said one of the suspects allegedly had ties to Pakistan’s intelligence agency.
From the perspective of prosecutors, the duo seemed to have endless cash to throw around, fake government IDs and potential connections to foreign intelligence. As NewsNation host Dan Abrams said, it had all the makings of what could have been considered a national security nightmare.
Former agents appeared on “Dan Abrams Live” last week, questioning who was paying the duo, how they accessed weapons and how they reportedly fooled the Secret Service for two years.
Now, the judge on the case, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey, ruled that the government’s claims there could be a national security risk if the defendants were released on bail were “overblown” and “overstated.”
According to court documents, Taherzadeh and Ali “compromised United States Secret Service personnel involved in protective details and with access to the White House complex by lavishing gifts upon them” and when law enforcement raided apartments linked to the pair they found “all the tools of law enforcement and covert tradecraft” including weapons, surveillance equipment, hard drive copying equipment, tools to make fake IDs, including a machine to create personal identification verification cards and passport photographs, as well as tactical gear like gas masks, breach equipment and various law enforcement insignia.
Prosecutors reported that Ali traveled to the Middle East in recent years and bragged of having ties to Pakistani intelligence. But Ali’s attorney pointed out that his client is a naturalized U.S. citizen and claimed Ali only had a Pakistan national identity card to “avoid having to seek visas” to the country where he was born. A spokesperson from the Pakistani Embassy in Washington also rejected the claim that Ali is tied to Pakistani intelligence.
Prosecutors later clarified that they were not accusing Ali of having any connection to Pakistani intelligence but were merely bringing Ali’s past claims to the court’s attention.
And as far as following the money linked to the lavish gifts, Taherzadeh and Ali are being represented by public defenders and are being sued by their landlord over allegations of unpaid rent.
Ali’s lawyer also claims that Ali was a victim of Taherzadeh and not his accomplice. Attorney Greg Smith says his clients did not know his apparent partner was allegedly lying about being affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security and genuinely believed the pair was working on behalf of the government.
Meanwhile, Taherzadeh’s attorney says he acted out of a “desire for friendship, not to influence anyone” and that the case is an “embarrassing misrepresentation that got out of control.”
Prosecutors also revealed that the men in question were accidentally tipped off they were being investigated and did not flee anywhere. Officials said the slip up forced them to speed up the investigation and arrest the men earlier than they had planned.
While the judge said the case was “overstated,” the men are still accused of impersonating federal agents. The judge approved pre-trial bond but noted that he believed the government had presented enough evidence against Taherzadeh and Ali to secure convictions.