Secret Service investigation leads to agents put on leave over scheme providing rent-free apartments
WASHINGTON - Four U.S. Secret Service employees have been placed on leave related to their association with two men and a scheme to provide the federal officers with tens of thousands of dollars in rent-free apartments and other gratuities.
The disciplinary action was taken in connection with the arrests of Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 35, who were charged with impersonating Department of Homeland Security agents, according to court documents.
At separate Thursday court appearances, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein suggested that additional conspiracy charges could be filed in the case, adding that the suspects sought to "infiltrate" federal law enforcement and defense agencies.
Rothstein also made reference to Ali's possible association with the Pakistani intelligence service.
The prosecutor said Ali had told witnesses about his "connections" to the organization known as ISI, but Rothstein said the government had not confirmed those claims. He said a passport had been recovered in Ali's name showing travel visas to Pakistan and Iran.
A federal magistrate scheduled a Friday detention hearing for both men to determine whether they would remain in custody pending trial.
Federal authorities alleged that Taherzadeh provided Secret Service members and a Homeland Security employee with more than $40,000 in rent-free apartments at an upscale district complex, smartphones, surveillance systems, a flat-screen television and assorted law enforcement paraphernalia.
In one case, Taherzadeh allegedly offered to purchase a $2,000 assault rifle for a Secret Service agent assigned to the protective detail of first lady Jill Biden.
Another Secret Service employee, a member of the agency's Uniformed Division assigned to the White House complex, was provided access to a penthouse apartment valued at $40,200 between February 2021 and January 2022.
A separate, three-bedroom apartment valued at nearly $50,000 was provided to a second Uniformed Division officer during the same time period.
Taherzadeh allegedly told the officers that the apartments were approved by the DHS as part of his work.
"The investigation confirmed that there are no such operations and that it authorized no such expense," court documents stated.
Rothstein told a federal magistrate Thursday that the suspects controlled up to five apartments in the complex, where they also lived.
The alleged scheme began to unravel last month when authorities began investigating an assault of a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier.
During the investigation, witnesses told authorities that Taherzadeh and Ali, who represented themselves as agents with Homeland Security Investigations unit, may have witnessed the assault.
In a brief statement Thursday, the Secret Service said it was cooperating with the "ongoing investigation."
"All personnel involved in this matter are on administrative leave and are restricted from accessing Secret Service facilities, equipment, and systems," the agency said.
If convicted, Taherzadeh and Ali face a maximum punishment of three years in prison and fines of $250,000 each.