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2 men accused of posing as federal officers to get near Secret Service

Two men are accused of impersonating federal officers to get close to U.S. Secret Service agents and members of the defense community. (iStock)

The FBI on Wednesday arrested two men charged with impersonating federal law enforcement in an investigation that has placed four U.S. Secret Service members on leave.

Federal authorities accused Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 36, of obtaining handguns, rifles and other material to pose as Department of Homeland Security employees. They said the men used the guise to get closer to members of federal law enforcement and the defense community — including a U.S. Secret Service agent assigned to the first lady’s protective detail.

Taherzadeh provided members of the Secret Service and an employee of DHS with items such as “rent-free apartments (with a total yearly rent of over $40,000 per apartment), iPhones, surveillance systems, a drone, a flat screen television, a case for storing an assault rifle, a generator, and law enforcement paraphernalia,” according to an FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in D.C.

Taherzadeh also offered the employees use of vehicles he said belonged to the government and offered to buy a $2,000 assault rifle for an agent assigned to protect the first lady, the affidavit said.

The complaint said that four members of the Secret Service were placed on administrative leave as of April 4. The Secret Service said in a statement Thursday morning that the investigation is ongoing and that personnel on leave have been restricted from accessing Secret Service facilities, equipment, and systems.

Both men are scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court on Thursday and are currently detained, prosecutors said.

Investigators said the pair posed as DHS officers or employees beginning in February 2020.

The charges against Ali and Taherzadeh were made public as FBI personnel were seen in the Navy Yard area Wednesday night and were photographed on social media going into an apartment building. In a statement, the FBI said personnel were conducting “court authorized law enforcement activity” in the 900 block of First Street SE.

The investigation into the pair began March 14 when a U.S. Postal Service inspector went to a D.C. apartment complex to respond to a complaint of an assault on a letter carrier at the building, where many people who work for the FBI, Secret Service, Department of Defense and Navy live. Residents told the inspector that Ali and Taherzadeh identified themselves to residents as Department of Homeland Security investigations special agents who may have witnessed the assault, the affidavit said.

They claimed they were “special police” officers involved in undercover gang-related investigations and probes related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the affidavit states. Other residents told the inspector the men used several apartments in the building, claiming the Department of Homeland Security paid the rent, and used an SUV equipped with emergency lights they identified as “their official DHS vehicle.”

The inspector learned the men were in contact with several members of the Secret Service and had provided gifts to them or their families and use of the SUV, the affidavit states. The document did not explain how the inspector learned about the gifts.

The inspector informed DHS, which then informed the FBI.

The affidavit included photos of the men in police tactical gear with “POLICE” emblazoned on their clothing. And in one instance, Taherzadeh sent a stock photo from the Internet to one witness and claimed to be in Homeland Security Investigations training, investigators alleged.

The affidavit also detailed interviews from several witnesses. One said Taherzadeh lives in and has several apartments in the complex. He provided one person with a rent-free penthouse apartment for about one year, a value of about $40,200, the affidavit said. One of the uniformed Secret Service members assigned to protect the White House complex allegedly lived in a three-bedroom apartment valued at $48,240 from February 2021 to January 2022, the court file said.

Another witness reported seeing “a significant amount of law enforcement paraphernalia, including SWAT vests, a large safe, computers, a high-powered telescope and internal surveillance cameras in [Taherzadeh’s] apartment.”

Magda Jean-Louis, Peter Hermann, Jasmine Hilton and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.