Washington, DC – A judge granted bail on Tuesday to two men who posed as federal agents to ingratiate themselves with members of the U.S. Secret Service’s Presidential protection detail.
U.S. District Court Judge G. Michael Harvey granted bail on April 12 to 40-year-old Arian Taherzadeh and 36-year-old Haider Ali but said he’d stay his decision until 9 a.m. on Wednesday to give prosecutors time to consider an appeal, CNBC reported.
The amount of the bail has not been reported.
Harvey said the men could be released to the custody of relatives who lived in the DC area and must be confined to those residences wearing GPS monitoring devices, CNBC reported.
The Daily Mail reported that the judge classified much of Taherzadeh’s conduct as “not good”, but said it was “sophomoric behavior, not the sort of serious dangerous conduct that requires pre-trial detention.”
Harvey said the case did not meet the standards for denying the defendants bail, CNBC reported.
“In a case like this, release should be the norm,” Harvey said. “It’s not a crime of violence. It is a felony, but it is a felony with a maximum period of incarceration of three years.”
The judge also noted that if convicted, the sentencing guidelines recommended the duo receive jail terms of zero-to-six months, CNBC reported.
Federal prosecutors on Friday had asked Harvey to hold the two men accused of impersonating U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents because of recent travel to Iran and Pakistan and claims Taherzadeh made of contacts in Pakistani intelligence.
Prosecutors told the judge that Taherzadeh and Ali had “compromised United States Secret Service (USSS) personnel involved in protective details and with access to the White House complex by lavishing gifts upon them, including rent-free living.”
Authorities said that Taherzadeh and Ali posed as DHS officers and claimed to be working on a special task force that was investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot, WTOP reported.
Investigators said that Taherzadeh and Ali lived at a Navy Yard apartment building in the 900-block of First Street, SE, and ingratiated themselves with Secret Service agents by showering them with gifts and free housing, the Daily Mail reported.
The Secret Service agents who received gifts included a member of First Lady Jill Biden’s protective detail and members of the detail that protects the Vice President’s residence.
The arrest affidavit said Taherzadeh and Ali provided rent-free apartments valued at $40,000 each annually to a DHS employee and Secret Service agents, CNN reported.
Court documents showed that Taherzadeh allegedly provided a Secret Service agent who was assigned to the White House complex protection detail a “rent-free penthouse apartment” for one year at a cost of about $40,200.
Another uniformed Secret Service member assigned to the White House allegedly lived in a three-bedroom apartment valued at $48,240 that Taherzadeh paid for from February 2021 to January 2022, The Washington Post reported.
The affidavit also said that Taherzadeh bought a $2,000 semi-automatic rifle for a member of the First Lady’s protection detail, according to CNN.
He also gave federal agents “iPhones, surveillance systems, a drone, a flat screen television, a case for storing an assault rifle, a generator, and law enforcement paraphernalia,” according to the affidavit.
The investigation began after the men’s scheme was uncovered by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service during a probe into an attack on a mail carrier at the apartment building, WTOP reported.
The men claimed to be members of a nonexistent U.S. Special Police Investigation Unit that they said fell under Homeland Security.
Prosecutors told the judge that the pair shouldn’t be released from custody because they were a flight risk and possessed guns, The Washington Post reported.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein told the judge that Ali had recently traveled to Iran and Pakistan, WTOP reported.
A neighbor told investigators that Ali claimed to have ties to the Pakistani intelligence organization, The Washington Post reported.
“We have not verified the accuracy of his claims, but Mr. Ali made claims to witnesses he had ties to ISI, which is the Pakistani intelligence service,” Rothstein said.
Prosecutors also told the judge that Taherzadeh had turned off the GPS on his phone and begun erasing social media posts when he realized law enforcement was onto him, WTOP reported.
“The Defendants were not merely playing dress-up,” Rothstein argued. “They had firearms, they had ammunition, they had body armor, they had tactical gear, they had surveillance equipment, and they were engaged in conduct that represented a serious threat to the community, compromised the operations of a federal law enforcement agency, and created a potential risk to national security.”
He said Taherzadeh had guns and ammunition in his possession despite being prohibited from doing so by a prior domestic assault conviction, WTOP reported.
Prosecutors said the search of five apartments in the Navy Yard building – including the two where Taherzadeh and Ali lived – recovered Glock and Sig Sauer pistols, DHS patches, DHS vests, DHS training manuals, binoculars, “sniper-spotting equipment,” and a list of the names and addresses of the other building residents.
Investigators have not yet figured out where the men got the money they used to dupe the Secret Service agents, The Washington Post reported.
Court records indicated that Taherzadeh was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and had been dodging lawsuits for years.
All four of the members of the Secret Service who were involved with Taherzadeh and Ali have been suspended while an investigation is conducted.