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Many questions remain in impersonation plot that duped federal agents, prosecutors say

By Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand, CNN

Prosecutors told a judge Friday that they still don’t know a motive for two men charged with impersonating federal agents, whether they are connected to any foreign government or whether they received anything from the federal agents they allegedly duped.

“This investigation is less than two weeks old, and every day it gets worse and worse as more and more evidence comes forward, and more and more witnesses come forward,” prosecutor Josh Rothstein told a federal judge on Friday.

The Justice Department is arguing that Haider Ali and Arian Taherzadeh should stay behind bars while the investigation continues. Judge Michael Harvey peppered prosecutors with questions, many of which they couldn’t answer.

The hearing will continue Monday, and the two men will remain behind bars over the weekend. Neither Taherzadeh nor Ali has entered a formal plea.

The two men spent more than two years impersonating Homeland Security agents, currying favor with federal law enforcement officers, some of whom lived in a swanky DC complex where they had apartments, and amassing a small arsenal of weapons and surveillance equipment, according to court documents.

Federal investigators are trying to unravel how the men paid for five apartments in a high-rent Washington neighborhood, as well as weapons and other equipment, a US law enforcement official said.

Among the questions for investigators is whether the money could have come from a foreign government, though they have noted that the effort didn’t appear to have the sophistication expected of trained foreign intelligence services.

Rothstein noted that one of the men, Ali, has citizenship status in Pakistan while also being a naturalized US citizen. Ali had traveled to Iran in the months before the scheme began, Rothstein said, and took five other trips abroad, including to Iraq and Pakistan.

Rothstein told Harvey during the detention hearing that they haven’t determined the source of their funding or whether they had been able to fully cover the rent.

The men, before their arrest, had been in the process of being evicted from the building, where they allowed members of the Secret Service to live for free in two of the apartments they rented, Rothstein said. The prosecutor added that the landlord could have “subsidized their corruption, unwittingly.”

Another outstanding question, prosecutors said, is whether any of the weapons or surveillance equipment was left over from Taherzadeh’s alleged time as a deputized special officer with the DC police.

The apartment complex also did not have Taherzadeh’s company listed as providing security, Rothstein said, and that still wouldn’t explain the amount of weaponry and ammunition, as well as the battering ram, drone and other surveillance equipment that were found in their apartments.

“You don’t need almost 100 rounds of ammunition to be a special police officer in the lobby of a building,” Rothstein said.

The Justice Department also said it does not know how Ali and Taherzadeh acquired a list of everyone in their apartment building, a code to open the door to any unit and access to the building’s security cameras.

The amount of evidence acquired from the five apartments is extensive, Rothstein said, noting that investigators filled up an entire moving truck with seized assets. Rothstein also said that the Secret Service is investigating whether anything found in the apartments was government-issued equipment.

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CNN’s Evan Perez contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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