US prosecutors say the men offered Secret Service agents free apartments and iPhones, among other expensive gifts.
The US Secret Service has said it has placed some of its staff on administrative leave for allegedly accepting gifts, including free apartments, from two men now facing criminal charges for posing as Department of Homeland Security (DHS) special agents. .
Thursday’s Secret Service announcement came a day after the US Justice Department said it had arrested the two suspects, Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali, in Washington.
Officials said their actions were exposed when the suspects gave false statements about being members of the police force to a US postal inspector investigating a March assault on a mail carrier.
According to the criminal complaint, Taherzadeh and Ali had been posing as special agents since at least February 2020 and offering a variety of gifts to members of the Secret Service and at least one Homeland Security employee.
The gifts included free apartments valued at $40,000 per year, iPhones, surveillance systems, a drone, a flat-screen TV, a case to store an assault rifle, a generator and other police paraphernalia, according to the complaint.
The FBI also said Taherzadeh offered to buy a $2,000 assault rifle for an agent assigned to protect First Lady Jill Biden and told other government officials they might have access to what he said were ” official government vehicles.
Prosecutors Allege Taherzadeh and Ali Falsely Claimed They Worked for (DHS) on a Special Task Force doing research gang and related violence january 6 insurrection in the United States Capitol. They allege that the two posed as law enforcement officers to blend in with real federal agents.
The Justice Department said the two men tried to recruit at least one person to join what they claimed was an official DHS “task group.”
“Taherzadeh and Ali demanded that the ‘applicant’ be shot with an Airsoft rifle to assess his pain tolerance and reaction,” an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit. “After being shot, the applicant was informed that the hiring of him was in process. The applicant was also assigned to conduct an investigation into an individual who provided support to the Department of Defense and the intelligence community.”
Taherzadeh, 40, and Ali, 36, were taken into custody when more than a dozen FBI agents charged into a luxury apartment building in southeastern Washington on Wednesday night.
The postal inspector found that other people who lived in the same apartment complex believed that Taherzadeh and Ali had set up surveillance in the building, authorities said. Residents said they believed the two were able to access their private mobile phones and had access to their personal information, authorities added.
As of Monday, four members of the Secret Service were placed on administrative leave pending further investigation. “All personnel involved in this matter are on administrative leave and have restricted access to Secret Service facilities, equipment and systems,” the agency said.
Meanwhile, the two suspects are expected to make an initial appearance in federal court in Washington later Thursday.
Authorities did not detail what the men were trying to accomplish, if anything, by posing as law enforcement officers or by handing out the gifts. Prosecutors said the investigation is continuing.