It’s been six days since the FBI broke down the doors of a luxury Navy Yard apartment building to arrest two DC oddballs with an alleged cache of guns. They were charged with pretending to work for the Department of Homeland Security while aggressively befriending Secret Service agents by dowsing them with lavish gifts. Obviously, these allegations raise some questions about motive.
So far, it’s crickets from prosecutors, but a new defense filing in the case offers a surprising explanation: Arian Taherzadeh was simply thirsty for friends, his lawyers claim, while Haider Ali was too dim to understand what was happening.
The filing claims that Taherzadeh “acted out of a desire for friendship, not to influence anyone.” One purehearted expression of “genuine friendship” was to dangle an array of beguiling perks before members of the Secret Service: free luxury apartments, iPhones, a flat-screen TV, surveillance systems, a drone, and “law enforcement paraphernalia.”
Another amicable gesture that allegedly came with “no intention of compromising any federal agent” was Taherzadeh’s offer to buy a $2,000 assault rifle for a Secret Service agent assigned to Jill Biden’s protective detail. And the duo also engaged in a classic friendly bonding activity when they allegedly shot a Secret Service agent with an airsoft rifle to test the agent’s “pain tolerance” as part of a fraudulent “recruitment process” for DHS. In other words, exactly what I tell my socially anxious son to do to score an invite to his classmates’ birthdays.
As for Haider Ali, lawyers claim that he, too, was a victim of Taherzadeh’s charm. The defense filing raises the possibility that Ali “may well have naively but genuinely believed” that his friend was DHS—after all, “If all of those experienced federal agents, with their years or even decades of experience, did not see through Taherzadeh’s claims, why is it fair to expect more from Mr. Ali, a high school graduate with no college degree and none of their formalized training?”
Federal prosecutors are seeking to keep the men in jail, but the duo’s lawyers are arguing for their release pending trial. They claim that Taherzadeh and Ali pose no risk to the community because, among other reasons, they’re broke! Apparently they never paid any rent on the five luxury apartments involved in their con. They’re on the hook for $220,000 to the building, which, according to lawyers, leaves them without the “means to violate the law.”
Lawyers also argue that the defendants won’t re-offend because they are now so famous that, even if they wanted to, they couldn’t possibly replicate their ruse. The filing claims that Taherzadeh “could no longer impersonate a federal agent – his name is now well known and no law enforcement officer would mistake him for one of them.” Besides, the lawyers point out that “Any danger concerning the weapons that were allegedly in [Taherzadeh’s] possession has been obviated by the seizure of those weapons.” So, if the court agrees to release Taherzadeh into his father’s custody in Sterling, the alleged cache of matériel—which feds say included body armor, gas masks, and various police equipment—won’t follow.
This whole unfortunate affair, the lawyers would have us believe, was simply an “embarrassing misrepresentation that got out of control.” And really, it’s been a long, lonely couple of years—let those among us who didn’t use exorbitant gifts to forge lasting pandemic friendships with the federal law enforcement community cast the first stone.
Taherzadeh and Ali are due back in court Thursday afternoon.