A second man pleaded guilty Wednesday to posing as a member of federal law enforcement while he cozied up to neighbors who worked for the Secret Service and didn’t pay rent in a luxury apartment complex in D.C.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly left Ali on home incarceration until his sentencing, which is scheduled for Feb. 24.
In April, a federal grand jury indicted Ali and another man, Arian Taherzadeh, after prosecutors said they carried out an elaborate ruse at the Crossing apartments in Southeast Washington. By prosecutors’ telling, Ali and Taherzadeh posed as agents with the Department of Homeland Security and ingratiated themselves with members of the Secret Service assigned to protect the White House complex and first lady Jill Biden.
Ali and Taherzadeh initially pleaded not guilty, with Ali’s defense arguing that Taherzadeh had tricked his client into believing he was working for a legitimate security company. At a hearing on Wednesday, Ali appeared to maintain that position — though he ultimately admitted to joining the impersonation scheme and owning a large-capacity ammunition-feeding device.
“I’m having problems here, I must admit, in terms of accepting this plea,” Kollar-Kotelly said, after Ali suggested he was unaware of much of the ruse until he was arrested. “He doesn’t seem to be agreeing to much in terms of what he has done.”
The scheme unfolded between December 2018 and April 2022, and three apartment complexes were defrauded out of more than $800,000 in unpaid rent, parking and associated fees, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said Ali joined the ruse — led by Taherzadeh, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, unlawful possession and voyeurism charges in August — as early as June 2020. Ali said Wednesday that he was fooled at first but knew he was participating in a ruse by the end of 2021.
Prosecutors initially feared the men could pose a threat to national security, because of the positions of their neighbors. Prosecutors said Ali falsely claimed that he participated in the capture of the wife of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and that he had a connection to a senior official in the Pakistani Intelligence Service.
But on Wednesday, Kollar-Kotelly described the purpose of the conspiracy as much simpler: The men were angling to make money and not pay rent.
“It was impersonating and getting the benefits out of doing that,” she said. “These benefits were the apartment buildings … and getting additional money from the bank fraud scheme.”
Ali agreed with that characterization.