Washington — A Washington, D.C., man who was accused of participating in a multi-year scheme topleaded guilty Monday to charges stemming from the ruse and has agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation, the Justice Department announced.
Arian Taherzadeh, 40, admitted to creating a private law enforcement and investigative service called the United States Special Police and using it to pretend to be a federal agent with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Office of Personnel Management and other federal agencies, according to plea documents filed in federal district court in Washington.
As part of the scheme, which the Justice Department said began in December 2018 and continued through April 2022, Taherzadeh used his fake affiliation with the federal government to recruit other people to the U.S. Special Police and defraud the owners of three luxury apartment complexes by securing leases and then failing to pay the rent, according to the court filings.
Federal prosecutors said Taherzadeh, co-defendant Haider Ali and an unnamed person also used a false affiliation with the Department of Homeland Security and other U.S. agencies to “ingratiate themselves” with members of the law enforcement and defense community, including by lavishing Secret Service employees with gifts worth more than $90,000.
Taherzadeh and Ali, 36, were arrested in April for conduct stemming from the scheme, and Ali. Taherzadeh on Monday pleaded guilty to one federal conspiracy charge, and two violations of D.C. law: unlawful possession of a large-capacity ammunition feeding device and voyeurism.
According to the plea documents, Taherzadeh and Ali told members of law enforcement they were investigators or special agents with U.S. Special Police, though the entity was not affiliated with the U.S. government or District of Columbia.
On several occasions, Taherzadeh and Ali allegedly attempted to recruit people to a federal task force by posing as law enforcement and making up stories about their background as part of the scheme. Taherzadeh claimed he was a former Army Ranger, former U.S. Air Marshal, a special agent with Homeland Security and member of a multi-jurisdictional task force, according to plea documents.
He also falsely said he worked on past cases involving child exploitation and undercover operations involving confidential informants. Federal prosecutors claim Ali said he worked for the Department of Homeland Security or the Secret Service, and was on a special assignment at the White House. Ali also allegedly made a series of false claims about his background, including that he participated in the arrest of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, his family was “Middle-Eastern royalty,” he was a Calvin Klein Model, and a close relative led the Pakistani intelligence service.
To bolster his claims and appear as a legitimate federal employee, Ali used photos of well-known government officials, which he obtained through his work as a driver with a car service, according to court filings.
As part of the scheme, the Justice Department said Taherzadeh and Ali were able to obtain leases for multiple apartments across three different complexes in Washington by using U.S. Special Police, law enforcement personas, and made-up federal supervisors. They bilked the complexes out of more than $800,000 in unpaid rent, fees and parking, according to filings.
On one occasion at the Sonnet apartment building in Northwest D.C., Taherzadeh and another person claimed to be federal law enforcement and accessed video surveillance from the building to park in unauthorized spots.
At another complex in Southeast D.C., The Crossing, prosecutors said Taherzadeh had an unlicensed Glock handgun with a large capacity ammunition feeding device, numerous rounds of ammunition, surveillance equipment, tactical gear, clothing with police insignias and equipment for breaching a door.
Like at the Sonnet, Taherzadeh and Ali allegedly used their fake law enforcement personas to obtain access to security footage at The Crossing, and also to get parking spots. The spots were not only used for their personal cars, but also were given to Secret Service members for their personal use, prosecutors said.
In his apartment at The Crossing, Taherzadeh installed surveillance cameras outside and inside of his unit, including in his bedroom, which he used to record sexual activity with women, according to the court documents. He then showed explicit videos to third parties, federal prosecutors said.
Taherzadeh’s false identifications to the Secret Service began in the spring of 2020, according to plea documents, when he claimed to be a special agent in a gang unit with the Department of Homeland Security. He told a special agent with the Secret Service that he was part of a covert task force, according to the court filings.
Federal prosecutors said Taherzadeh and Ali “attempted to and did ingratiate themselves with employees of the [Secret Service] because it provided them with cover and furthered their impersonation as a federal law enforcement officer.”
In one instance Taherzadeh gave the wife of a Secret Service employee what he claimed was a government vehicle, and the worker and his wife a generator and survival backpack. He gave another a penthouse apartment to live in rent-free for a year, and a third Secret Service employee with a penthouse apartment, drone, gun locker, and Pelican case.
Secret Service members also received iPhones, surveillance systems, a flat-screen television and computer monitor from Taherzadeh, Ali and the unnamed third person as part of their efforts to cozy up to them, federal prosecutors said. They also offered to buy an assault rifle for an agent assigned to first lady Dr. Jill Biden’s Secret Service detail, according to court records.
According to plea documents, the gifts were provided in the course of Taherzadeh’s friendship with the three Secret Service employees and “deepened their relationship.”
A sentencing date for Taherzadeh has not been set, though he is set to appear in court again in November. Four Secret Service employees — two are agents and two are uniformed division officers — were alsoin April after they were duped in the scheme by Taherzadeh and Ali.