Four suspended Secret Service employees duped in case involving federal agent impostors

New evidence revealed in fake federal agents case

Four Secret Service officials have been suspended after they were allegedly duped by two men who were accused of posing as officers and employees of the federal government.

Investigators allege that Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 35, who have each been charged with false impersonation of a federal officer, obtained paraphernalia, handguns and assault rifles used by federal law enforcement agencies. Then, according to the FBI, they allegedly used their fake associations with the U.S. government to cozy up to U.S. Secret Service officials with gifts and favors.

Two of the four suspended Secret Service officials are agents, and two are uniformed division officers. An FBI affidavit released Wednesday listed three of them as witnesses who have been interviewed extensively by the bureau.

One of the agents was on the Secret Service detail for first lady Jill Biden. Another is a uniformed division officer at the White House. The third is detailed as a uniformed division officer at Vice President Kamala Harris' residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory. And a fourth was assigned to the presidential protection detail — that is, this officer is one of the federal agents charged with protecting the safety of the sitting president, first family and vice president. 

FBI raids luxury apartment building in case involving two men who posed as FBI agents and duped four U.S. Secret Service employees. Government exhibits

The fourth officer is not a part of the ongoing investigation of the USSS, however, because this individual does not have information that's pertinent to the probe, but allegedly interacted with the suspects.

Prosecutors asked Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey late Friday to detain the pair pending trial, alleging the evidence gathered from the five apartments raided earlier this week showed the two posed a "serious danger," that Ali was a flight risk, and Zaherzadeh may try to destroy evidence.

"The defendants were not merely playing dress-up," prosecutor Joshua Rothstein said, but "created a potential national security risk." The men "tricked people whose job it is to be suspicious of others," he alleged, who were ultimately "shocked" the two were not who the federal officers they claimed to be.

However, Rothstein also revealed in court that the government believes Taherzadeh was a special police officer for the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. at an unspecified time, a claim that piqued the judge's interest. 

Court documents filed in preparation for Friday's detention hearing detailed the evidence investigators recovered during their search: a loaded handgun, tactical gear, a sledgehammer, rounds of ammunition, handcuffs, a drone, and even police lights. 

Paraphernalia found in FBI raid of men alleged to be posing as federal agents.  Government exhibit

Investigators also presented the court with numerous passports and visas that they say belonged to Ali that showed two visas authorizing travel from the Islamic Republic of Iran. There were also indications of numerous international trips. 

During an interview after his arrest and recounted in the government's detention memo, Taherzadeh allegedly told law enforcement that he had falsely identified himself as a member of the Department of Homeland Security and as a former U.S. Army Ranger. He also admitted he had offered to provide a USSS agent with an assault rifle and provided free apartments to two USSS agents for approximately one year. 

"With respect to Ali, Taherzadeh stated that Ali had obtained the electronic access codes and a list of all of the tenants in the apartment complex. Taherzadeh further stated that Ali was the individual that funded most of their day-to-day operation but Taherzadeh did not know the source of the funds," the court filing explains.

Harvey appeared skeptical of the government's evidence during Friday's hearing, since prosecutors lacked the evidence to answer many of his questions. He demanded answers from prosecutors by Monday about Taherzadeh's past work and business, sources of funding, and specific information about Ali's travel.  

"I want to know what you know...and what that means," the judge demanded. 

The service is also gathering more information on how the two suspects' social circles were intertwined with those of Secret Service employees. The agency's Security Division launched an internal probe on Monday to determine how both suspects insinuated themselves into the lives of law enforcement officials, sources familiar told CBS News. Investigators are also looking into whether any security breach occurred when the suspects interacted with the officials. At this point, U.S. law enforcement officials say the internal audit has not drummed up any evidence that sensitive information was leaked to the suspects, but stress that the investigation is in its "very early" phases.

The review will ultimately determine whether the agency will take more punitive measures against the officials who were duped, including whether they should be allowed to keep their security clearances.

Lavish gifts given by the suspects to USSS employees — which included iPhones, TVs, apartments and an assault rifle — were not presented as bribes, but were portrayed to USSS officials as "gifts," according to sources familiar with the audit. In transferring them to the Secret Service employees, the suspects claimed that the equipment was surplus from previous federal cases. For example, one USSS official who had accepted an apartment told investigators he was led to believe it was "left over" from a completed federal surveillance operation. 

However, federal agents routinely receive training aimed at sharpening their awareness to such plots, raising questions about how trained law enforcement personnel were fooled.

Law enforcement sources told CBS News that FBI investigators leading the U.S. government's criminal probe into the suspects are looking into the possibility that the two suspects have ties to Iranian intelligence including to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite component of the Iranian military that conducts special operations, or the Quds force. 

Taherzadeh and Ali each face a maximum of 3 years in prison if convicted, but prosecutors said in court on Thursday that they may also charge the pair as part of a conspiracy. They will remain in jail until at least Monday, when the detention hearing is set to continue. 


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