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Four Secret Service agents were disciplined after getting snookered by imposter federal cops

Court documents from the 2002 indictment of Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali
Court documents from the 2022 indictment of Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali.Jon Elswick/AP
  • In 2022, two DC men were arrested in an elaborate plot to impersonate federal officers.

  • The imposters bamboozled, and lavished gifts on, four Secret Services agents.

  • Here is an update on those four agents, two of whom are still in the Secret Service.

It was a crazy story: a pair of imposters spent two years convincingly cos-playing as federal cops, posing for pictures in tactical gear, stockpiling weapons and ammo, and tooling around Washington, DC in matching black SUVs with flashing emergency lights.

Alarmingly, prosecutors also alleged, the two men had lavished gifts of luxury apartments, a flat-screen TV, and iPhones on four utterly snookered Secret Service agents, at one point offering a $2,000 assault rifle to one assigned to protect First Lady Jill Biden.

Arrested two years ago, both imposters have since pleaded guilty to weapons charges and impersonating federal law enforcement. One, Haider Sher Ali, 36, is serving a five-year sentence. The other, Arian Eugene Taherzadeh, 42, the plot's mastermind, will soon start his nearly three-year sentence, his lawyer told Business Insider.

But what happened to the four Secret Service agents they bamboozled?

All four were immediately placed on administrative leave when the arrests broke, and all have undergone some form of discipline, a spokesperson recently told BI.

One agent's employment was "terminated," said the spokesperson, Donald J. Mihalek, executive vice president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Foundation.

Another agent resigned. But the remaining two are still working as Secret Service agents "after discipline," Mihalek said.

Mihalek declined to give the agents' names or elaborate on their work circumstances. "It was an internal discipline process, not a criminal proceeding," he said.

None of the four agents faced criminal charges, Mihalek stressed.

"There was never any quid-pro-quo," he explained.

"These guys pretending they were federal cops were, I hate to say it, just glorified police buffs," he said.

The buffs gave the Secret Service agents gifts — worth $90,000 in all, prosecutors said — not for some nefarious purpose, but because "They just wanted to surround themselves, and be embedded in, the lifestyle," he said.

"They had cars decked out with lights, they bought all the fake regalia you would need," he said of Ali and Taherzadeh.

"They even took their cars to the same service stations" that federal law enforcement uses, Mihalek added.

"But there was no, 'Hey, can you get us inside the White House?'" he said. "Or even, 'Can you get us a signed picture of Joe Biden?'"

Ari Eugene Taherzadeh, a federal cop-wannabe who duped four Secret Service agents.
Ari Eugene Taherzadeh, a federal cop-wannabe who duped four Secret Service agents.US District Court, Southern District of New York/Insider

Free cars and apartments

Between 2019, when their charade began, and early 2022, when they were arrested, Ali and Taherzadeh told some skyscraper-tall tales.

At various points, Taherzadeh claimed to be a former Army Ranger and Air Marshal who'd killed in the line of duty, according to court papers. Ali claimed he'd helped capture El Chapo's wife, that he was Middle Eastern royalty, and that he had once been a Calvin Klein model.

All these boasts turned out to be laughably false. But the pair's ability to trick four Secret Service agents was no laughing matter.

The top agent embroiled in the charade is referred to in court papers as "USSS Employee 1." He was the special agent on Jill Biden's detail. Taherzadeh tricked him into believing he worked for Homeland Security Investigations, according to Taherzadeh's guilty plea.

Taherzadeh gave this agent's wife free use of a car he falsely claimed was a "government vehicle," according to the plea. Taherzadeh also gave this top agent and his wife "a generator," and "a doomsday/survival backpack," according to the plea.

The assault rifle, though, takes the cake.

Taherzadeh "offered to purchase and provide USSS Employee 1, a Special Agent assigned to the protective detail of the First Lady of the United States, with an AR-15 style rifle, valued at approximately $2,000," Taherzadeh's plea said.

A Secret Service agent
The imposters bamboozled, and lavished gifts on, four Secret Services agents, prosecutors said. Anadolu Agency / Contributor / Getty Images

And selfies, too

"In furtherance of his efforts to impersonate DHS personnel, Taherzadeh sent USSS Employee 1 pictures of himself in law enforcement clothing," including photos showing him wearing tactical vests and showing law enforcement gear in the background, according to one court filing.

The second and third Secret Service agents to be snookered — USSS Employee 2 and USSS Employee 3 in court papers — received even more lucrative gifts, the filings state.

These two agents worked for the agency's Uniformed Division, which protects the White House grounds and foreign mission properties in DC.

Both believed Taherzadeh worked for DHS, and USSS Employee 2 further believed he worked undercover in the "gang unit" at Homeland Security Investigations, Taherzadeh's plea said.

Taherzadeh gave USSS Employee 2 "a rent-free penthouse apartment for approximately one year, worth approximately $40,200, as well as an iPhone, an HSI coin, and a DHS patch," the plea said.

USSS Employee 3, the other Uniformed Division agent, got a rent-free apartment worth $48,240, "as well as an iPhone, a drone, a gun locker and a Pelican case."

A selfie Arian Taherzadeh sent to a Secret Service agent in First Lady Jill Biden's protective detail.
A selfie Arian Taherzadeh sent to a Secret Service agent in First Lady Jill Biden's protective detail.US District Court, Southern District of New York/Business Insider

The fake feds GPS-tracked the real feds

Taherzadeh and USSS Employees 1, 2, and 3 were all on the same Apple family plan, allowing him to track the three's GPS locations, prosecutors said.

Court papers do not reveal if Taherzadeh was able to trace the location of Employee 1, the special agent in Jill Biden's detail, during working hours. But at least one of the other Secret Service agents had his location tracked while working.

Even if there's no Quid-pro-quo, 'the optics are bad'

"He acted out of a desire for friendship, not to influence anyone," Taherzadeh's lawyer argued in a pre-sentencing filing.

"He never asked for anything from the officers he befriended, never gave them anything for the purpose of gaining something in response, and deeply regrets the harm he caused to the reputations and careers of these officers," the lawyer wrote.

Regardless, it's a bad look, former Secret Service agents told Business Insider.

A selfie Arian Taherzadeh sent a Secret Service agent in First Lady Jill Biden's protective detail.
A selfie Arian Taherzadeh sent a Secret Service agent in First Lady Jill Biden's protective detail.US District Court, Southern District of New York/Business Insider

"Even if there was no quid-pro-quo, the optics are bad," said Joseph Funk, a former Secret Service agent and now a senior vice president at TorchStone Global, a security consulting firm.

"If an agent has a rich uncle or longtime neighbor who works for Rolex, and they get you a great deal on a watch, that's one thing," Funk said.

"But in this case, they were taking gifts from people who they shared no historical background with," he said. "It was just someone they had struck up a conversation with," he said.

It's easy to be duped — just not for two years

It's not that hard to be duped, at least at first, by an imposter cop, former Secret Service agent Bill Pickle told BI.

"If I'm out at a sporting event or a bar, and someone introduces me to someone and says, 'He's an agent of Homeland Security,' I may look at the guy and ask him a few questions," he said.

"But I would never say, 'Let me see your credentials,' if he looked the part and acted the part and said all the right buzzwords," added Pickle, the former special agent in charge of Al Gore's vice-presidential detail.

"I can see how it might have happened," at least at the beginning, Pickle said.

"But I remember when this case happened, thinking, there are lots and lots and lots of buffs out there who purport to be federal officers or police."

Read the original article on Business Insider