Two Canadians planned to carry out assassinations in the United States on behalf of Iranian intelligence, according to allegations contained in a recently released indictment.
The suspects are accused of plotting to shoot a man and woman living in Maryland, including an Iranian defector.
The charges unsealed Monday by the U.S. Department of Justice include details of the alleged plot, including how much the would-be killers had asked for the job: US$350,000.
News of the charges comes at a time of extremely high tensions with Iran, as the United States threatens retaliation after three American soldiers were killed in an attack by an Iranian-backed militia.
The indictment identifies a Canadian suspect as Damion Patrick John Ryan, an integral member of the Hells Angels criminal gang who allegedly assembled a team of armed men in late 2020 and early 2021. He allegedly worked with another Canadian, Adam Richard Pearson, who was living illegally in Minnesota at the time.
They were hired by an accused Iranian drug trafficker who is operating on the instructions of a certain officer in the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, according to the United States.
According to the indictment, Pearson promised to recruit people and tell them to repeatedly shoot victims in the head in order to make an example of them.
He also allegedly texted Ryan to say, regarding an intended victim, “We need to erase his head from his chest.”
The United States announces sanctions against the network
In another action on Monday, the United States government announced financial sanctions against the network led by suspected drug trafficker Naji Ibrahim Sharifi-Zindashti.
U.S. authorities say Zindashti is based in Iran and his criminal activity is given free rein to the Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
In exchange for state protection, they say, the criminal group commits assassinations and kidnappings, on several continents, of dissidents and opponents of the Iranian regime; according to the US Treasury Department, these operations were supervised by MOIS officer Reza Hamidiravari.
“The Iranian regime’s continued efforts to target dissidents and activists demonstrate the regime’s deep insecurity and its attempt to expand Iranian domestic repression internationally,” said U.S. Treasury official Brian Nelson.
The charges do not identify the intended targets in Maryland.
As for the suspects, both are already in prison. Ryan is currently imprisoned in Canada on firearms-related charges and Pearson was stopped by the FBI in 2021 and extradited to Canada for a murder that occurred in Alberta four years ago.
In the United States, they are now charged with one count of conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in a murder-for-hire plot, just like Zindashti.
Pearson also faces separate firearms charges.
The new allegations have not been proven in court.