An Iranian operative has been charged with hiring Hells Angels for assassinations in the US, DOJ says.
The suspects allegedly conspired to hire biker group members to murder two Maryland residents.
DOJ said the Iranian agent employs his network to target Iranian dissidents and activists.
An Iranian drug trafficker with ties to its spy agency has been charged by the US Department of Justice with hiring members of the Hells Angels biker group to carry out an assassination on American soil.
DOJ unsealed the charges on Monday, alleging the Iranian operative, Naji Sharifi Zindashti, along with two Canadian nationals identified as Hells Angels members, Damion Patrick John Ryan and Adam Richard Pearson, conspired in a murder-for-hire scheme to kill two people in Maryland, one of whom defected from Iran.
The three are said to have conspired between December 2020 through March 2021, with Zindashti using encrypted messaging to recruit agents to travel to the US and carry out the killings.
"As alleged, Mr. Zindashti and his team of gunmen, including a Minnesota resident, used an encrypted messaging service to orchestrate an assassination plot against two individuals," said US Attorney Andrew Luger for the District of Minnesota. "Thanks to the skilled work of federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents, this murder-for-hire conspiracy was disrupted and the defendants will face justice," he added.
The DOJ's indictment alleges that Zindashti hired the Hells Angels bikers to conduct the assassination in January 2021. According to the department's press release, Pearson stated, "shooting is probably easiest thing for them," and that he was "on it." Ryan recommended "2 guys go with proper equipment." Pearson said he would encourage the recruits for the job to "shoot [the victim] in the head a lot [to] make example" and that he would tell them "we gotta erase his head from his torso."
The DOJ alleges that Zindashti and Ryan agreed on a $350,000 payment, in addition to $20,000 to cover expenses for the four man team conducting the job.
All three defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire. Pearson is also charged with one count of possession of a firearm by a fugitive from justice and one count of possession of a firearm by a non-US citizen unlawfully in the US.
In alignment with the release of the charges, the US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets and the United Kingdom announced action against Zindashti and his network. Zindashti, who was identified as an Iranian narcotics trafficker and currently resides in Iran, operates his network "at the behest of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security," the joint statement read.
"Zindashti's network has carried out numerous acts of transnational repression including assassinations and kidnappings across multiple jurisdictions in an attempt to silence the Iranian regime's perceived critics. The network has also plotted operations in the United States," the statement added.
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