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Date : May 20, 2022

Judge grants bail for D.C. men charged with impersonating federal agents

A judge plans to allow two men charged with posing as federal agents to be released on bail, even though prosecutors argue they could pose a “risk to national security.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey said Tuesday the case doesn’t meet any of the standards to deny bail.

He said that pretending to be a federal officer is not a violent crime and noted that while prosecutors said one of the defendants was a flight risk because of his ties to Pakistan, there’s “no reliable evidence of any foreign involvement in this case.”

Harvey ordered Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 35, released to the custody of relatives in the area. He stayed the order until Wednesday morning to give prosecutors time to appeal.

Although the government has alluded to the possibility of additional charges down the line, Harvey noted that each defendant is charged with only a nonviolent crime that carries a maximum three-year sentence.

“In a case like this, release should be the norm,” the judge said.

Taherzadeh and Ali, of Washington, were arrested last week and accused of impersonating Homeland Security officials and “lavishing gifts” on Secret Service agents assigned to the White House, including a free apartment.

Prosecutors had asked that they remain jailed pending trial, saying they had amassed a cache of firearms, ammunition, body armor, tactical gear and surveillance equipment and that the Secret Service agents they’d ingratiated themselves with worked in the White House, at Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence and on first lady Jill Biden’s detail.

They “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,” prosecutors said in court filings.

Haider Ali appears virtually before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey on Friday.

At a detention hearing Monday, Taherzadeh’s lawyer Michelle Peterson countered that the government had “jumped to the wildest conspiracy theories imaginable.”

In court filings, Taherzadeh’s attorneys suggested his claims of being a federal agent were “an embarrassing misrepresentation that got out of control,” not some nefarious plot.

Ali’s lawyer, Gregory Smith, told the judge that prosecutors “have been making a mountain out of a molehill” and that his client, a married father of four young kids, is no threat to anyone.

Taherzadeh and Ali have not entered pleas.

Arian Taherzadeh appears virtually before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey on Friday.

Prosecutors said the two men tried to cover their tracks — including turning off GPS monitoring on their phones and deleting social media posts — after they found out their interactions with the Secret Service were being investigated.

Prosecutor Joshua Rothstein said the Secret Service appeared to have inadvertently alerted the pair to the investigation on April 4. That’s the day the Secret Service placed four agents involved with Taherzadeh and Ali on leave and started a review of their conduct.

As part of the review, an investigator reached out to Taherzadeh at a business email address and asked to speak with him, Rothstein said. The investigator didn’t provide any details of the review, but Taherzadeh then realized he and Ali were under investigation, Rothstein said.

Prosecutors then moved to obtain a warrant, and the FBI arrested them on April 6. The men were meeting with an unidentified lawyer at an area restaurant when they were arrested, Rothstein said.

In explaining his decision to allow home detention, the judge said it’s unlikely they would be seen as government agents going forward.

“They are infamous,” Harvey said. “There are people around the world who now know that neither Mr. Taherzadeh nor Mr. Ali are federal agents.”