Arian Taherzadeh, a man accused of impersonating a Department of Homeland Security employee, said he gave gifts to Secret Service agents not to gain influence but because they were his friends, his lawyer told a federal judge Monday, the Wall Street Journal reports. The lawyer, Michelle Peterson, said prosecutors have “jumped to the wildest conspiracy theories imaginable” in the unusual case, which became public when authorities arrested Taherzadeh and his associate. Haider Ali, and searched a high-end apartment building in Washington, D.C. Prosecutors say the men posed as DHS employees and gave gifts including rent-free apartments, a drone and other things to Secret Service members. Prosecutors charged them with impersonating federal officers but haven’t offered a motive. The Secret Service said Monday that it was continuing to investigate the affair. Four Secret Service members have been placed on administrative leave pending further review.
“Because of the breakneck pace of the investigation, there are many facts that we still do not know,” prosecutors wrote in a filing Sunday. “But the facts that we do know about the Defendants—that they lied about their identities for years, stored a cache of weapons and surveillance equipment in their apartments, compromised law enforcement agents in sensitive positions, and tried to cover up their crimes—leave no doubt that their release poses a public safety risk.” Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey said Monday that he wasn’t ready to rule on whether the men should stay detained while their case proceeds and said he had more questions. Court-appointed lawyers for both men said the allegations were overblown. Ali might have believed Taherzadeh was offering him legitimate work, his lawyer said. “If all of those experienced federal agents, with their years or even decades of experience, did not see through Taherzadeh’s claims, why is it fair to expect more from Mr. Ali, a high-school graduate with no college degree and none of their formalized training?” his lawyer wrote.