By Susan Crabtree for RealClearPolitics
More details are emerging about the four Secret Service employees entangled in an alleged bribery scheme carried out by two men accused of masquerading as Department of Homeland Security law enforcement agents.
An affidavit filed Wednesday night in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. revealed that one of the Secret Service agents involved in the bribery scheme was a special agent assigned to First Lady Jill Biden’s protective detail. Another was a Uniformed Division officer at the White House.
RealClearPolitics has learned that another Secret Service special agent involved in the alleged bribery is assigned to President Biden’s detail, those agents who accompany the president nearly everywhere he goes and stand by his side during the most sensitive of discussions and private moments. A second Uniformed Division officer caught up in the bizarre scheme was assigned to protect Vice President Harris’s residence, according to sources familiar with the matter.
All four have been placed on administrative leave while an investigation takes place. RCP is not releasing their names because of privacy concerns. Usually, the Inspection Division and the Office of Professional Responsibility handle investigations into possible employee misconduct. U.S. Secret Service leaders decided that the bizarre and serious nature of the allegations requires a more specialized approach.
The agency’s “Insider Threat Division” is leading the investigation into whether the employees allowed themselves to be bribed, whether they knowingly took part in the possible scheme, and whether espionage was involved.
One of the men impersonating DHS agents allegedly told witnesses in the case that he had connections to ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency, a prosecutor said during a court hearing Thursday. Both U.S. citizens accused of the bribery hold passports with visas to Iran and Pakistan. They were allegedly impersonating DHS officials and attempted to bribe four members of the elite force that protects the president, vice president, and their families.
“The Insider Threat Division does not share any information with Inspection,” a knowledgeable Secret Service insider told RCP.
The investigators looking into the matter appear to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies such as the FBI. On Wednesday, the Secret Service issued a statement noting that the agency “has worked and continues to work with its law enforcement partners on this ongoing investigation.”
“All personnel involved in this matter are on administrative leave and restricted from accessing Secret Service facilities, equipment, and systems,” the agency said. “The Secret Service adheres to the highest levels of professional standards and conduct and will remain in active coordination with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.”
Whether the four members of the Secret Service placed on administrative leave are being held by law enforcement while the investigation proceeds is unknown. A Secret Service spokesperson did not immediately respond to RCP’s inquiry.
The Bidens have paid special attention to selecting their Secret Service detail, which is not uncommon when new presidents move into the White House and take on the role of commander in chief. In December 2020, after his election, then-President-elect Biden made some staffing changes amid concerns from political allies that some members of the detail were too politically aligned with President Trump, the Washington Post reported at the time. Biden shuffled in a handful of senior agents whom he knew well from their time protecting him and his family four years ago when he was vice president.
The two men charged with impersonating DHS agents, Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali, were ordered to be held in jail pending a detention hearing. According to court filings, one of the more troubling details of the case involves Taherzadah allegedly offering to give an assault rifle worth $2,000 to the Secret Service agent assigned to Jill Biden. The filing also says that Taherzadeh lent what he described as a “government vehicle” to the same Secret Service agent’s wife and also gave her a generator.
Taherzadeh is also accused of giving members of the Secret Service, as well as a legitimate DHS employee, “rent-free apartments (with a total yearly rent of over $40,000 per apartment), iPhones, surveillance systems, a drone, a flat-screen television, a case for storing an assault rifle, a generator and law enforcement paraphernalia,” the filing states. Prosecutors say one of the agents who received the free rent and additional gifts is the Uniformed Division officer assigned to the White House.
That agent lived rent-free in a three-bedroom apartment that generally would rent for $48,000 annually, the filing said. It was located at the same complex where Taherzadeh lived. Prosecutors said he was tricked into believing accepting the free rent wouldn’t raise ethics or conflict of interest issues because Taherzadeh told the agent that a division of DHS “had approved extra rooms as part of his operations, and that [agent] could live in one of them for free.”
“The investigation confirmed that there are no such [DHS] operations, and it authorized no such expense,” the filing said.
The two DHS impersonators appeared to have targeted the apartment complex, which is home to several law enforcement employees, including many Secret Service and DHS employees. Taherzadeh and Ali seemed to have control of five apartments. When investigators searched the defendants’ apartments, they found a drone, handguns, ammunition, bullet-proof body armor, gas masks, zip ties, handheld radios, body cameras, binoculars, a high-powered telescope, and four laptop computers. They also discovered what appeared to be official DHS patches and training manuals, scopes for weapons, components of disassembled rifles, and a list of every resident of the apartment complex.
The FBI, in an affidavit, said the two men had pretended to be DHS agents from as early as February until their arrest and noted that they carried insignias and firearms used by federal agents as part of that deception. The goal was to “ingratiate themselves with members of the federal law enforcement and the defense community.”
The pair appeared to blow their cover, and the imposter act quickly started crumbling just last month when a U.S. postal inspector responded to the apartment complex to investigate an alleged assault on a letter carrier.
While investigating that incident, the inspector talked to other renters who said Taherzadeh and Ali may have witnessed the assault. When the inspector spoke to the men, they both identified themselves as investigators with the U.S. Special Police Investigation Unit and “deputized special police” with the city of Washington.
The two men also stretched their tale even further by claiming to be involved in undercover gang-related investigations and investigations related to the violence at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, according to the affidavit.
Susan Crabtree is RealClearPolitics’ White House/national political correspondent.
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