Iranian Assassin Recruited, The U.S. Department of Justice revealed that the head of a transnational Iranian assassination network used the help of a “full-patch” Hells Angel to plan the murder of two defectors who were now residing in Maryland, at the behest of the dreaded Ministry of Intelligence and Security of the Islamic Republic.
Iranian Assassin Recruited Hells Angel Members to Murder Defectors in U.S., Feds Say
The federal government claims that accused drug trafficker Naji Ibrahim Sharifi-Zindashti, also known as “Big Guy,” has committed “many acts of… repression including assassinations and kidnappings across multiple jurisdictions in an attempt to silence the Iranian regime’s perceived critics.”
Prosecutors claim that Zindashti, 49, consented to pay Canadian outlaw biker Damion Patrick John Ryan, 43, and 29-year-old Adam Richard Pearson, an “affiliate” member of the Angels, $350,000 for the kill, plus an additional $20,000 to cover expenses, in a four-count indictment that was released on Monday. According to the accusation, Pearson, a Canadian, promised to blow one of the victims’ heads off and “make [an] example” of him.
In return for his network “carrying out heinous operations on the government’s behalf,” Zindashti and his illicit empire are shielded by Iranian security forces, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, which on Monday banned Zindashti and a number of his associates from using the American financial system. On Monday, the United Kingdom also enforced a set of penalties of its own.
There have been reports of murders committed by his network in Turkey, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates. The Maryland case dates back to December 2020, according to the indictment, when Zindashti allegedly spoke with Ryan on Sky ECC, a drug cartel-favored encrypted cellular network that is now defunct.
Over the following month or so, the two allegedly spoke about “jobs,” “equipment,” “tools,” and intentions to “make some money,” according to the indictment. It states that Zindashdi messaged Ryan about “a specific job in the United States” at some point in January.
The indictment continues, “Ryan told Zindashti that although doing a job in the USA was challenging, he might have someone to do it.” Ryan said to Zindashti, ‘I find the east coast difficult.'” In the West, my possibilities and capabilities are greater. The indictment further states that although Ryan’s person “was very far away,” he was still eager to travel. “Ryan then asked Zindashti for ‘equipment and a car.'”
After surviving his attempted murder in 2015, Ryan messaged Pearson on Sky ECC about a potential “job” that Pearson had for him in Maryland. According to the indictment, Pearson informed Ryan that “shooting is probably the easiest thing for them” and that he had individuals he trusted when he was residing illegally in Minneapolis under a false identity and on the run from Canadian police. Ryan informed Pearson that the hit would probably require three individuals in addition to a driver, and he stated that he would want at least $100,000 to complete.
The accusation continues, saying that although Ryan would get Pearson what he wanted, the assassination had “to be overkill [sic] lol.” “Pearson then threatened to “shoot [the victim] in the head [to] make an example” and said he would urge other recruits to do the same. If the work needed to be done quickly, he could also handle it personally. Pearson texted Ryan back, promising to “make sure I hit this guy in the head with at least [sic] half the clip” and to “tell his contacts that we gotta erase his head from his torso.”
According to the indictment, Zindashti messaged Ryan on January 30, 2021, requesting an update. Ryan stated that he would require funds to finish the task and that he was in the process of “putting things in order.” A few days later, they reached an agreement on $370,000 in total, including costs. Shortly after that, Zindashti put Ryan in touch with a guy named “Co-Conspirator-1” on Sky ECC.
Ryan wrote to Co-Conspirator 1, “We have a 4-man team ready,” after Co-Conspirator 1 was identified as Nihat Abdul Kadir Asan on Monday by the U.S. Treasury Department. Asan is an Iranian-born close associate of Zindashti who has been instrumental in logistical planning for many of the network’s operations, including the plot to assassinate Americans.
Over the following few days, Ryan and Asan allegedly exchanged multiple communications regarding payment, according to the indictment. It states that after Ryan requested the identities and locations of the intended victims, Asan responded with two maps that showed their address highlighted and pictures of a man and a woman.
Asan concluded the indictment by facilitating a $20,000 payment to Ryan in March 2021 “to cover travel expenses associated with the plot to murder the victims.”
How close the crew got to the targets is unknown, as is the method by which the FBI, working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, examined the case and found evidence of the purported plan.
On July 26, 2021, however, Pearson was taken into custody by FBI investigators in Minneapolis on first-degree murder charges related to the 2019 death of an Alberta man. Less than a year later, Ryan was taken into custody in Ontario on accusations of drug and firearm trafficking.
At the moment, the two are detained in Canada. Zindashti currently resides in Iran, where he is out of the reach of American authorities. In addition to one count of firearm possession by a fleeing criminal and one count of firearm possession by an alien in the United States unlawfully, Pearson is also charged with one count of conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.
The purported assassination plot’s intended targets are not known to the general public.
In a statement, Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the National Security Division of the Justice Department said, “To those in Iran who plot murders on U.S. soil and the criminal actors who work with them, let today’s charges send a clear message: the Department of Justice will pursue you as long as it takes—and wherever you are—and deliver justice.”
The Iranian regime’s “continued efforts to target dissidents and activists demonstrate the regime’s deep insecurity and attempt to expand Iran’s domestic repression internationally,” according to Brian E. Nelson, undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. The United States will continue to fight the Iranian regime’s transnational repression and will use all available measures to stop this threat, including on U.S. soil, in coordination with our foreign allies and partners, including the United Kingdom.